H5N1 virus kills two siblings in Indonesia

Meanwhile, the 192-nation World Health Assembly agreed on Friday to speed up preparations for a possible bird flu pandemic by allowing member nations to establish a global warning system a year early.

World Health Organization officials so far have confirmed 33 human deaths from bird flu in Indonesia, out of 124 worldwide, the AP reports.

The country's latest victims, an 18-year-old and his 10-year-old sister from West Java, died Tuesday in the state-run Hasan Sidikin hospital in Bandung, the capital city, said Achmad, an official at the ministry's special task force post for bird flu, who uses only one name. They died within hours of each other, less than a day after arriving at the hospital, he said.

Local tests found they were infected by the H5N1 virus, said Nyoman Kandun, head of the Health Ministry's office of communicable disease control.

The tests will be sent to a WHO laboratory for confirmation.

In Geneva, the chief decision-making body for the World Health Organization approved without debate a resolution allowing countries to immediately introduce a fast reporting system to guard against the start of a possible flu pandemic.

The bird flu warning system had been scheduled to start on June 15, 2007. But the resolution said countries could formally introduce it immediately because there is a "serious risk to human health, including the possible emergence of a pandemic virus, arising from ongoing outbreaks in poultry of highly pathogenic avian influenza."

The decision came as health officials probed a second family cluster in Indonesia's northern Sumatra, in which at least six of seven family members died of bird flu, the most recent on Monday. An eighth family member who died was buried before tests could be done, but she was also considered to be among those infected with bird flu.

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