Bird flu has killed again in Indonesia and is picking up speed elsewhere in Asia, with fresh outbreaks in Vietnam and a new human case reported in China, officials said today.
The H5N1 virus killed a 14-year-old boy on the outskirts of Jakarta, the country’s first fatality in six weeks.
Tjandra Yoga Aditama, deputy director of Persahabtan Hospital, said the boy died four days after being admitted with flu-like symptoms.
Indonesia is the world’s hardest-hit country, with 58 bird flu deaths.
A 37-year-old woman taken to hospital earlier this week with the virus remains in critical condition, Aditama said.
The death, along with reports of new poultry outbreaks and human cases, comes during the winter months when bird flu typically flares.
China today also announced that a 37-year-old farmer was infected last month but has fully recovered from the virus and was released from the hospital over the weekend, the China News Service and Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Health Ministry.
It was the first human case reported in China since July.
The man raised backyard poultry, but Chinese experts were still trying to determine how he got infected, said Joanna Brent, a World Health Organisation spokeswoman in Beijing.
China, which has been harshly criticised for its failure to report disease outbreaks, reacted quickly to the case.
Officials notified the WHO yesterday, a day after tests confirmed the Anhui farmer was infected, Brent said.
“We think both the way the central government and the provincial government responded were excellent,” she said.
The China News Service said authorities in Anhui took disease-control measures but did not give details.
Experts fear the virus, which remains hard for people to catch, will evolve into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.
So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds.
Meanwhile, Vietnam today reported that the virus has spread to a fourth southern province since last month as officials brace for the worst prior to next month’s Lunar New Year festivities when people and poultry are on the move.
Kien Giang province became the latest area struck by the bird flu virus, with nearly 2,000 ducks killed or slaughtered over the weekend, said Dinh Cong Than, director of the provincial department of animal health.
Last month, bird flu outbreaks were reported in neighbouring Ca Mau, Bac Lieu and Hau Giang provinces – the country’s first reported outbreaks in a year, killing or forcing the slaughter of some 30,000 birds.
Experts fear the virus could sweep nationwide in the coming weeks, and Hanoi has urged all local leaders to intensify their efforts to prevent the virus from spreading farther.
“The epidemic situation is worsening,” Vice Agriculture Minister Bui Ba Bong was quoted as saying at a bird flu meeting yesterday. “As a rule, the risk of bird flu outbreaks spreading to all Mekong Delta provinces within a month and to northern provinces in the next 45 days is very high.”