Indonesian toddler dies of bird flu: country’s bird flu deaths rise to 21

An Indonesian toddler died of bird flu, bringing the country's toll to 21, an official said Friday, citing test results from a World Health Organization-sanctioned laboratory in the United States.

The 3-year-old boy died in a hospital in Semarang, Central Java province on Feb. 28, apparently after coming into contact with sick chickens, said Hariadi Wibisono, a senior health ministry official.

A further investigation, however, is being carried out to confirm the source of infection.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has devastated poultry stocks across Asia since 2003, and has recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The virus has also jumped to humans, killing at least 96 people, most of them in Vietnam and Indonesia, which together account for two-thirds of the deaths.

Health experts say it remains difficult for humans to catch H5N1, but they fear the virus could mutate into a form more easily transmitted among people and set off a flu pandemic that could kill millions worldwide, reports the AP.


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