Indonesia's Ministry of Health reported the death of an 11-year-old boy yesterday of H5N1 bird flu infection. This has raised the total death toll from bird flu in Indonesia to 53 and cases of infection, 71.
The latest victim was a boy from south Jakarta who was reported to have had contact with infected birds. He was hospitalized following identification of bird flu like symptoms; last Thursday, and died Saturday evening.
In Indonesia backyard poultry is an important source of food for the people there. In spite of the continuous rise in the death toll, Indonesian authorities are increasingly reluctant to carry out mass culling of birds, saying it would be extremely expensive and a logistical nightmare.
Scientists have long warned that bird flu could mutate and become easily human transmissible. In the event of this happening, the world could face a serious flu pandemic, similar to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 that caused the death of about 50 million people.
H5N1 avian influenza virus strain is likely to mutate when infecting a person sick with the normal human flu virus. Exchange of genetic information between the H5N1 virus and the normal human flu virus could cause it to acquire the ability to spread easily from human to human.