World News

Indonesia confirms first cases of H1N1 flu virus

A nurse prepares an isolation ward and medical equipment, in the event that suspected Influenza A (H1N1) flu patients are hospitalised, in Persahabatan hospital in Jakarta on June 12, 2009, file photo. REUTERS/Crack Palinggi

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s health minister confirmed on Wednesday the country’s first cases of the H1N1 flu virus after an Indonesian pilot in Jakarta and a British woman in the resort island of Bali tested positive for the virus.

The 22-year-old British woman had been living in Australia, while the pilot, 37, had travelled to Australia and Hong Kong, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said.

The minister told a news conference that she believed both cases had originated from Australia and there was no evidence the virus had spread in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country with 226 million people.

“I assure you Indonesians have not been infecting other Indonesians. Both cases were transmitted from abroad,” she said, adding that those in contact with the two confirmed sufferers had been screened for the virus.

She urged health authorities in Bali, the country’s main tourism hub, to increase surveillance of those visiting the island from abroad.

The minister also said she was concerned that if H1N1 got a foothold in Indonesia there was a risk it could combine with the much deadlier H5N1 bird flu virus.

Indonesia has the highest death toll from bird flu of any country, with the country’s bird flu commission confirming 119 deaths from the disease.

The H1N1 virus has spread around the globe and the World Health Organisation has declared an influenza pandemic and advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against H1N1.

There have been more than 50,000 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus and at least 237 people have died.