Indonesia Passes Vietnam as Nation With Most Bird Flu Deaths

2006-8-8

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Indonesia passed Vietnam this week as the country with the highest confirmed number of human deaths from bird flu. It happened Monday when a sixteen-year-old boy from West Java died in a hospital in Jakarta. That brought the number of deaths to forty-three.

On Tuesday Indonesian officials reported another death. They said a girl, also sixteen, died in a hospital west of the capital.

Vietnamese officials have reported no cases of bird flu in humans so far this year. Vietnam has had forty-two confirmed deaths from the H-five-N-one virus.

There are concerns that people illegally bringing chickens and other poultry into Vietnam could undo measures taken to control the virus.

But Indonesia is of special concern because that country has had a number of human cases close together. In all, Indonesia has had almost one hundred sixty cases of bird flu in humans. All have been reported since last year.

Last week, Indonesia agreed to make public the genetic information of the H-five-N-one viruses that have killed Indonesians. The World Health Organization received permission to share the genetic sequences with non-W.H.O. scientists and laboratories.

Scientists are studying the virus as it spreads. They are watching for any genetic changes that might let it pass easily between people.

The deaths in Indonesia and Vietnam represent, together, more than sixty percent of all deaths from bird flu. There have been about one hundred forty deaths out of around two hundred forty cases since late two thousand three.

Thailand has reported two deaths from bird flu in the last two weeks. These were the first confirmed human cases in Thailand this year. As a result, workers have destroyed hundreds of thousands of farm birds. Thai officials also declared twenty-nine of the seventy-six provinces as bird flu emergency areas.

The declaration means the government can provide financial help to farmers whose birds are destroyed.

In another development, China confirmed Tuesday that its first human case of bird flu was in two thousand three. That is two years earlier than China had reported. The Health Ministry says it did not know until recently that tests of the man's blood showed he had the virus.

In June, Chinese medical researchers reported the two thousand three case in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

And that's the Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Archives of our reports are at WWW.51VOA.COM. I'm Steve Ember.