Bird flu: more deaths in Indonesia

The World Health Organization confirmed that a 39-year-old man and an 8-year-old boy died earlier this month of bird flu, raising Indonesia's toll to 11, an official said Thursday. The victims, who were not related, both died in the capital, Jakarta. “We just received confirmation from (a WHO-affiliated laboratory in) Hong Kong that they were infected with the bird flu virus," said Dr. Ilham Patu, a spokesman for Jakarta's infectious diseases hospital.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks since it started ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, and has jumped to humans, killing at least 71. All 11 of Indonesia's human bird flu deaths have occurred in the last six months.

Most human cases of bird flu have been traced back to contact with sick birds. But experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily spread among people, possibly triggering a pandemic, reports the AP. I.L.

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