Bird flu epidemy in Indonesia contained

A bird flu outbreak that killed three people in Indonesia has been contained, the World Health Organization officials said, however the area remains vulnerable to the virus.

The three victims, a 38-year-old government official and his two young daughters, are the only people known to have died of bird flu in Indonesia.

Initially, the Agriculture Ministry said the three were infected by chicken droppings in their backyard that carried the H5N1 strain of the virus. But the Ministry of Health said Wednesday that they were unable to locate the source of the outbreak.

"Whatever the cause of this outbreak, it has passed and there was no further transmission," said Steven Bjorge, a WHO technical officer. "It's reassuring in the sense we don't have a broadening outbreak ... But there is a continued threat as long as there are outbreaks in poultry."

The Health Ministry and WHO said 300 people who had come in contact with the victims had been tested but so far none have shown symptoms of bird flu. Since two, 10-day incubation periods passed, the Health Ministry has closed the investigation. It also has lifted a ban on the transport of farm animals into and out of the district of Tangerang, a suburb outside Jakarta where the victims lived.

"We don't know where (the victims) got the virus so I can say Tangerang is safe," Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters.

Indonesia has vowed to do everything possible to combat the disease that has devastated poultry stocks across the region, killing or forcing the slaughter of hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks since 2003. It also has jumped to humans, claiming 61 lives in Asia.

But the government acknowledged it lacked the money to implement a mass culling of poultry in areas hit by bird flu. It also has culled some pigs, raising concern among international agriculture experts who say it was unnecessary since there is no proof that pigs spread the virus, the AP reports.

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