Hundreds of chickens and ducks have been slaughtered to contain a suspected bird flu outbreak in Indonesia as 13 people with flu-like symptoms await laboratory results, officials said Friday.
Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) had arrived in the affected village in North Sumatra to help investigate the possible outbreak and the sudden death of three residents last week, a provincial health official said.
"They will be in the village of Air Batu for two days to investigate the source of the suspected bird flu virus in the area and to check on the death of three people in the village," the official, Suhadi, told AFP.
Thirteen people have been hospitalised with fevers and respiratory problems, two of whom, a baby boy and a seven-year-old girl, were still in a bird flu isolation unit at a hospital in the provincial capital Medan.
Adam Malik hospital spokesman Sinar Ginting said the two children in isolation had shaken off the symptoms.
"The two patients with suspected bird flu have recovered and are in normal condition. But as we haven't received results from the laboratory they remain in the isolation room," he said.
Local officials said work was continuing to sterilise the village.
"We have taken measures since Tuesday when we found strong indications of bird flu virus in some 100 chickens and ducks in several places in Air Batu village," local husbandry office chief Oktoni Eryanto said.
At least 400 birds have been slaughtered and burned, and officials are continuing to spray backyard coops with disinfectant, he said.
"We don't need to send samples from the poultry to a laboratory because it's pretty clear that the cause is the bird flu virus," he said.
"Preventive action is more important."
A nurse at a local hospital said earlier this week that three people had died in the village with flu-like symptoms, but health ministry officials have been unavailable to confirm any suspect deaths.
The ministry, which has not commented on the latest suspected outbreak, has stopped providing regular public updates on human bird-flu deaths even though Indonesia is the country most affected with 112 confirmed cases.
WHO officials were also unavailable to comment.
The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 240 people worldwide since late 2003.
The virus typically spreads from bird to human through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.