Bird Flu: 2 More Deaths Suspected

A livestock official is conduct a test on a chicken for possible bird flu infection at a market in Bangkok on Wendesday, Jan. 11, 2006.
A day after a United Nations official called for $1.5 billion to help poor countries and international organizations fight bird flu, Indonesia reported what is said to be at least the twelfth death there from bird flu.

A health official in Jakarta said a 29-year-old woman who had a history of contact with poultry died Wednesday night and samples have been sent to a World Health Organization-sanctioned laboratory in Hong Kong to confirm the cause of her death.

That's according to Hariadi Wibisono, a senior official at the Indonesian health ministry.

Indonesia is also waiting on results from the Hong Kong lab on a 39-year-old man who died recently and for whom local tests indicated he had bird flu.

If both results are confirmed, the country's human toll from the disease would climb to 13, said Wibisono.

Indonesian tests are generally reliable, but the country does not update its official human bird flu tally until confirmation is received from the laboratory.

Bird flu has killed hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks since it started ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, and has jumped to humans, killing at least 78 people.

Cases have recently been recorded in Turkey.

Most human cases of the disease have been traced to contact with infected birds.

Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people, possibly sparking a pandemic.

Wednesday, a senior U.N. official in Geneva said that poor countries and international organizations need about $1.5 billion to help fight bird flu and prepare for a possible pandemic in humans.

Dr. David Nabarro, the U.N. coordinator on avian and human influenza, initially expressed confidence that countries would give more than $1 billion at next week's first international donors conference to finance efforts to combat the disease. But he later hedged his expectations for the Jan. 17-18 meeting in Beijing, co-sponsored by the Chinese government, the World Bank and the European Commission.

Nabarro said he is expecting "a significant contribution from the United States" and donations from "some unconventional countries," which he refused to identify.

"Fingers-crossed, it's going to be a good-sized pledge," Nabarro said. "I think most countries are aware of the seriousness and the need to move money to poor countries."

Nabarro stressed the $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion needed now is "a beginning," based on estimates from the World Bank and others, and that much more would be needed in the case of a pandemic.

Developing countries need more than $1 billion of that to cope with the disease and prepare for any possible pandemic, he said. International institutions also require funds, especially the World Health Organization, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health, he said.

"I'm sad to say we have not had a significant influx of cash for bird flu over the last two years since we've really started to get worried about it," Nabarro told a news conference.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for