- JAKARTA (Reuters) - The growing
number of people with bird flu-like symptoms in Indonesia does not mean
the outbreak is becoming worse, and there is no sign the virus can be passed
easily among people, top U.N. health experts said on Thursday.
- Alarm has spread in populous Indonesia. Bird flu has
killed four people and 11 are under observation in the capital. Two others,
both children, have also died but the government is awaiting results to
confirm if the H5N1 virus killed them.
- Despite the cases, there is no evidence the H5N1 strain
has mutated into a form that could trigger a pandemic, said Georg Petersen,
the World Health Organization's Indonesia representative.
- Nevertheless, he pointed to the possibility of transmission
through very close contact with an infected person.
- "I think very close contact with a sick person might
infect that caretaker. That is why in hospitals we need to take all precautions
... That would be in a way a human-to-human transmission, but that demands
close, close contact," he said.
- Petersen said the case of a father and his two daughters
who died in the Tangerang suburb of Jakarta in July might have involved
- Thailand had reported a probable case of human-to-human
transmission in September 2004, when a 26-year-old woman died of bird flu
after "prolonged face-to-face exposure" with her daughter, who
was hospitalized with the virus.
- Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO's global special representative
on avian flu, also said on Thursday there was no sign the virus had mutated
into a form that could easily spread among people.
- "So far there is no evidence for increased chance
of human-to-human transmission," Chan told Reuters by telephone from
Sydney after attending a WHO conference in Noumea, capital of New Caledonia
in the South Pacific.
- All the confirmed and suspected cases have come from,
or near, the capital Jakarta.
- Chan said the rise in the number of suspected cases did
not point to an epidemic.
- "With increased surveillance it's not unusual that
you would pick up more cases," Chan said.
- Bird flu has killed 64 people in Asia since 2003 and
has since been found in birds in Russia and Europe.
- HIGH ALERT
- Petersen said laboratory tests on people killed by bird
flu in Indonesia showed they had the same or a similar virus that has killed
millions of poultry in Asia.
- "The tests from the 37-year-old woman ...so far
that looks like the bird virus. So there is no reason to believe there
has been any mutation so far," Petersen said of the fourth confirmed
bird flu death in the country.
- Indonesia's health minister said on Thursday a two-year-old
girl who died in Jakarta this week had shown bird flu symptoms, adding
that hospitals would be enhanced to cope with the virus.
- Eleven patients were now under observation at the designated
bird flu hospital in Jakarta, Siti Fadillah Supari added, raising the number
- Indonesia is waiting results from Hong Kong after a five-year-old
girl also died on Wednesday after suffering bird flu-like symptoms.
- I Nyoman Kandun, the head of disease control at Indonesia's
health ministry, said tests so far showed only one patient out of those
under observation was positive for the H5N1 virus. That patient was related
to the Jakarta woman who died of bird flu almost two weeks ago.
- The government has appealed for public calm over the
outbreak, which has dominated local media in recent days. On Monday, it
imposed a state of high alert, giving authorities power to order people
with symptoms of the virus into hospitals.
- The WHO last week warned bird flu was moving toward a
form that could be passed between humans and the world had no time to waste
to prevent a pandemic. Past pandemics have killed millions.
- The U.N. health agency was also working with Jakarta
to bolster stocks of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.
- Australia said on Thursday it would pay A$30,000 for
10,000 doses of anti-viral bird flu medicine for Indonesia aimed at protecting
health workers in the event of a pandemic.
- (Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in Canberra)