2 Bird Flu Deaths in Jakarta

Jakarta. Indonesian health authorities confirmed two people died of bird flu in August and September, bringing the death toll from the disease to seven so far this year.

Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s director general for disease control and environmental health, said on Friday that the figure was far less than in previous years.

“There have been a total of seven fatalities this year from bird flu, but if we compare that with last year’s figure, when 19 people died, the situation is getting better,” he said,

The ministry’s official Web site reports that the last two cases occurred in Jakarta.

In one of them, a 35-year-old man from Depok, south of the capital, was admitted to a hospital in West Jakarta on Aug. 18 for acute pneumonia.

He died on Aug. 27 and laboratory tests confirmed he had contracted bird flu, or the H5N1 strain of influenza A.

In the second case, a 40-year-old woman was hospitalized in East Jakarta on Sept. 9 after exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

She died on Sept. 17, and also tested positive for bird flu.

Tjandra said the five other confirmed deaths occurred in Riau, East Java, Central Java and Banten provinces.

The global bird flu outbreak, which began in 2005, struck Indonesia particularly hard, with the country recording the highest number of cases and deaths.

A total of 141 deaths from 170 confirmed cases have been recorded since 2005, with the epidemic peaking in 2006 and 2007, when 45 and 37 people died, respectively.

At least 302 people worldwide have died from bird flu since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease received renewed attention this week when authorities in Hong Kong confirmed their first case of bird flu in seven years.

Yoga said his ministry sent out memos advising health agencies across the country to intensify their surveillance and launch public campaigns to prevent another outbreak of the disease here.

However, he said Indonesians should not panic about the Hong Kong case leading to an outbreak here.

“Just because a bird flu case is detected in Hong Kong doesn’t mean a major outbreak will happen here anytime soon,” he said, calling on Indonesians to react rationally.

Indonesia received strong criticism last year when it stopped announcing individual cases of the disease and ceased sharing virus samples with international health experts working on a vaccine.

Former Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari had argued that the global system for vaccine research was unfair because her country’s bird flu specimens could be used to find a cure that would ultimately be too expensive for most Indonesians.

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