WHO tries to calm down Indonesian government on bird flu

World Health Organization (WHO) experts said that the increasing number of people showing bird-flu-like symptoms in Indonesia did not mean that the outbreak was becoming worse.

The statements came amid growing anxiety over the rising number of suspected bird flu cases here, after the Indonesian government earlier warned people of the possibility that the outbreak could become an epidemic. A number of foreign experts are expected to meet with government officials here on Friday to assess the situation, the AP reports.

"I think very close contact with a sick person might infect that caretaker. That is why in hospitals we need to take all precautions», says WHO's representative in Indonesia, Georg Petersen.

Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO global special representative on avian flu, said there was so far no biological evidence for the increased chance of human-to-human transmission. Neither did a rise in the number of suspected cases point to an epidemic, she said.

The WHO last week warned that bird flu was moving toward a form that could be passed between humans and that the world had no time to waste to prevent a pandemic. Past influenza pandemics have killed millions.

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