Two man die from suspected bird flu in Indonesia

A 4-year-old Indonesian boy whose sister died from bird flu last week also succumbed to the disease as the country grapples with a steady climb in cases, authorities said Thursday. Local laboratory tests showed the boy contracted the virus, said Dr. Runizar Roesin from Indonesia's bird flu information center. He died Tuesday in the west Javanese city of Bandung, he said.

The boy's sister died from bird flu over the weekend, according to local tests. Another sibling as well as the boy's father are also hospitalized with bird flu-like symptoms, including fever and respiratory problems, officials say. "We are seeing this case as a new cluster for Indonesia," said Health Ministry official Hariadi Wibisono, adding that officials would "conduct more investigation about the risk factor and many other factors relating to this."

The country has so far recorded four cases in which more than one person in a family or neighborhood contracting the virus. Health experts study such cases, known as "clusters," closely for signs that the virus may be passing between humans. Wibisono said blood and swab samples from all three children and the father have been sent to a World Health Organization-laboratory based in Hong Kong for confirmation.

So far, Indonesia has confirmed 12 deaths but if tests for the two dead siblings come back positive from the WHO lab, the toll would climb to 14. 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. Most of the human bird flu deaths have been in Vietnam and Thailand Health officials say there is no evidence in Indonesia or elsewhere that the virus is passing easily between humans, reports the AP. N.U.