Indonesia Says Bird
Flu Suspected In
Three Deaths
The Globe and Mail
JAKARTA (AP) -- Bird flu is suspected in the deaths of a man and his two daughters in Indonesia and the lack of evidence that they had contact with sickened poultry raises concerns of possible human-to-human transmission, the Health Minister said Friday.
The victims, a 38-year-old man and his two girls, nine and one-year-old, would be the country's first human fatalities linked to the disease. They lived in a suburb of Jakarta and all died in the last week and half, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said.
"These are suspected bird flu cases," Mr. Supari said at a news conference attended by officials from the World Health Organization. "We have sent specimens to Hong Kong to confirm the results, which will take seven to 10 days."
Hundreds of millions of birds have died or been culled across Asia in the last two years because of the deadly bird flu virus, which also jumped to humans, killing 51 people in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Experts say that all the deaths so far have resulted from an animal passing the virus to a human.
But WHO has long cautioned that the virus could mutate to allow easy transmission from person to person, which could cause it to spread around the world within months.
Dr. Georg Petersen, a WHO representative, said that while the three Indonesian family members had no known contact with poultry, a more thorough investigation could turn up evidence to the contrary.
"In other countries, this is often the case," he said.
Mr. Supari said the man's wife and their two maids have shown no symptoms of the disease -- which include fever and respiratory problems -- and tests have been carried out on more than 300 people who were in contact with the family.
Last month, Indonesia reported its first human case of bird flu in a poultry worker, but the man did not develop symptoms and is currently healthy.
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