The World Health Organization has confirmed five more bird flu related deaths in Indonesia, raising the Indonesia's bird flu death toll to 30. A team has further been sent to the northern Sumatra region, where four of the bird flu victims (belonging to the same family) had lived. The fifth victim was a 38-year-old caterer, is said to have been exposed to infected livestock and meat.
It is further suspected that eight members of a family in Kubu Simbelang village, 30 miles south of Medan could be infected with the deadly virus. Medical tests are being carried out to find if other sick relatives also harbor the H5N1 virus.
While tests are being carried out by the Indonesian health ministry to identify the cause of the outbreak, no evidence of human-human bird flu transmission has been recorded so far.
'The spread was through risk factors from poultry or other animals. There is no proof of human-to-human. There is a big question mark. Blood samples from all kinds of animals from chickens, ducks, geese, birds, pigs, cats and dogs turned out negative so far. Manure has also been checked. The result is negative,' said Nyoman Kandun, a health ministry official.
Indonesia, at this critical juncture stands next only to Vietnam, which has the highest number of bird flu related deaths, overall. Compared to the bird flu response of Vietnam and third-placed Thailand, Indonesia seems to be rather sluggish about implementation of bird flu control measures.
So far, 115 bird flu deaths have been documented, worldwide since 2003. Although a majority of these has been from Asian countries, few cases of mortality have also been reported in Europe and Africa. Direct contact with infected poultry is thought to have paved way for human infection. It is feared that the virus could mutate into a more virulent form, triggering a bird flu pandemic.