Bird flu kills two women in Indonesia

June 20th, 2008 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, June 20 (DPA) Two women have died of bird flu in Indonesia, raising the country’s human toll in the deadly H5N1 infection to 110 - the world’s highest, a health ministry official said Friday. A 16-year-old girl died in South Jakarta May 14, after exposure to sick and dead poultry and a 34-year-old woman from Tangerang district in Banten province, west of Jakarta, died June 3, said health ministry’s spokesman Sumardi.

Sumardi, who like many Indonesians goes only by one name, did not provide further details.

The latest deaths brought Indonesia’s human toll to 110 among the 135 diagnosed human cases of H5N1, the strain of bird flu that can be deadly in humans.

Both figures are the highest in the world.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari refused to say how many people had died of bird flu and insisted it was no longer necessary to announce the toll on a case-by-case basis.

Indonesia has been criticised for its reluctance to share information with international scientists battling the virus, without in return being guaranteed access to vaccines that may be developed abroad.

The most common way for human to contract the H5N1 virus is through contact with infected fowl.

Bird flu remains mainly an animal disease, but experts fear that the virus could mutate into a form that could spread easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions of people around the world.

Experts have warned that conditions in Indonesia hamper efforts to eradicate the disease, such as highly decentralized administration, under-resourced national veterinary services, lack of engagement with commercial poultry producers, insufficient funding and poor health education.

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