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Bird Flu Claims Young Indonesian Boy

Indonesia's bird flu death toll climbed to 50 on Friday after laboratory tests showed an 11-year-old boy died of the disease, a senior health official said.

The child died in a hospital in Tulungagung, East Java province, on Monday — hours after he was admitted and two days after developing symptoms of the disease, said Nyoman Kandun.

He appeared to have had contact with infected poultry.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 144 people worldwide since it started ravaging poultry stocks in Asia three years ago, according to the World Health Organization, which has not yet updated its Web site with the boy's death.

Most human deaths have been traced to contact with sick birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a more transmissible form, potentially causing a deadly global pandemic.

Indonesia, which has tallied more deaths from bird flu than any other nation, attracted international criticism earlier this year for not doing enough to stamp out the virus in its vast poultry stocks.

But David Nabarro, the United Nation's coordinator for avian and pandemic influenza, said last week the government had made improvements in recent months, increasing vaccinations, surveillance and culling.

It also was working hard to warn citizens of the dangers posed by the virus, he said, promising to urge the international community to release badly needed funds to help Indonesia fight the disease.

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