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Indonesian Woman Dies Of Bird Flu

An Indonesian woman from West Java province died of bird flu, an official said Friday, citing local laboratory results.

The 23-year-old from Bekasi, a town just east of Indonesia's capital Jakarta, died overnight after five days at the Sulianti Saroso Hospital, said Ilham Patu, a hospital official.

Blood and swab samples from the victim have been sent to a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmation, he said.

If those tests come back positive, Indonesia's official human death toll from the virus will climb to 17.

Patu said the hospital was still observing another 27-year-old female patient — also from Bekasi — who tested positive at a local lab for the H5N1 virus.

"Her condition is deteriorating," he said.

In other developments:

  • The Health Ministry said Friday that a London laboratory has confirmed the presence of the H5N1 strain of avian flu in dead birds from Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea coast. Part of Azerbaijan shares a short border with eastern Turkey, where four children died after becoming infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
  • Some Iraqis are letting their birds loose rather than slaughter them and the lack of a proper shipping container has kept the tissue sample of a man suspected of dying of bird flu sitting in Baghdad despite reports it was being tested abroad. Poor communications, scarce equipment and the dangers of the insurgency are all plaguing efforts to combat bird flu in Iraq.
  • In Nigeria, meanwhile, the deadly H5N1 strain has been detected in two more northern states and has been killing birds — some 100,000 — for weeks, Nigerian authorities said Thursday, raising fears the disease will spread elsewhere in Africa.

    Bird flu began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 140 million birds. It has also jumped to humans, killing at least 88 people in Asia and Turkey.

    Almost all the deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, possibly sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.

    Indonesia is seen as a potential flashpoint because of its high density of poultry and people.

    Hariadi Wibidono, a health ministry official, said the source of infection for the two victims from Bekasi was still being investigated, but initial inquiries showed both women had contact with poultry.

    The WHO has confirmed 23 cases in Indonesia, 16 of which were fatal.

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