Indonesia: WHO confirms 5 more bird flu deaths

The World Health Organization on Wednesday confirmed five more bird flu deaths in Indonesia, raising to 30 the number of human fatalities from the H5N1 strain of the virus in the sprawling archipelago.

Four of the new deaths were members of one family in North Sumatra province and one was in the country's second largest city, Surabaya, in East Java province, WHO spokeswoman Sari Setiogi said.

The fifth fatality was of a woman who died May 12 in a hospital in Surabaya, the provincial capital, Setiogi said.

Indonesia last year overtook Thailand as the country with the second-highest number of bird flu death toll after Vietnam, which has 42. While those countries have recently reported success in containing the virus, it continues to rapidly spread across Indonesia.

The virus has infected poultry populations in 27 of 33 Indonesian provinces, including easternmost Papua and the resort island of Bali, and the government has been criticized for refusing to carry out mass bird slaughtering operations in infected areas.

The outbreaks in Papua and North Sumatra have been reported only recently. In North Sumatra, eight members of a single family were infected and six of them have since died. Health authorities are awaiting conclusive test results on the sixth death.

Vietnam and Thailand have seen sharp decreases in the circulation of the H5N1 virus in poultry populations in recent months, thanks to aggressive government campaigns to combat the virus. The number of human cases also has come to a near standstill.

On Monday, a senior official at the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization criticized Indonesian health authorities for not taking decisive action to combat the virus' spread and for failing to increase public awareness of the disease.

The multiple infections, or clusters, are closely monitored by officials who fear the disease could become more infectious.

The virus is currently believed to be transmitted only from birds to humans and not human to human, reports the AP.


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