WHO confirms 25th avian flu death in Indonesia

May 8, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that a 30-year-old man who died in late April was Indonesia"e;s 25th avian influenza fatality.

Indonesian officials reported a week ago that local tests had been positive for the H5N1 virus and that samples had been sent to Hong Kong for confirmatory testing. The WHO told government officials yesterday that the tests were positive, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Today the WHO posted a statement noting the case.

The man, who lived in Tangerang, outside Jakarta, presumably contracted the H5N1 strain from his neighbor"e;s infected chickens and died April 26, according to earlier news reports. His is the 115th human death worldwide from avian flu and the 207th case, according to the WHO.

WHO data reveal that in 2006 Indonesia has reported the most cases and deaths from avian flu. This year Indonesia has had 16 cases with 14 deaths. Egypt has reported 13 cases and 5 deaths, Turkey 12 and 4, and China 10 and 7.

Since the H5N1 virus began spreading widely in 2003, only Vietnam has had more cases and deaths than Indonesia.

Shigeru Omi, MD, PhD, Western Pacific director for the WHO, recently singled out Indonesia and China for inadequate responses to avian flu. According to a May 6 AFP report, Omi said, "When it comes to the political commitment or engagement at the district level, some countries, like Indonesia, certainly, are [doing] less than what the central government wanted to have, and this is also the case in China."

Omi, making his remarks at a Vietnam meeting with agriculture and health ministers representing 21 Asian and Pacific nations, said China has worked hard at the national and regional levels, but has "room for improvement" at the provincial district level and below.

AFP last month quoted Bernard Vallat, DVM, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), as calling Indonesia a "time-bomb for the region" because of its failure to eradicate H5N1 from numerous locales.

Omi urged all nations to report avian flu cases and take other steps much more quickly to avert or slow a pandemic. He said countries often fail to report cases fast enough. "Half of the human cases have been reported to WHO within 2 weeks," Omi said. "The remaining half failed."

In other news, China reported the second avian flu outbreak in a week among wild geese in its northern province of Qinghai. Seventeen bar-headed geese were found dead Apr 23 in a remote area of the province"e;s Yushu county, and China"e;s agriculture minister recently confirmed that the cause was avian flu, according to a May 5 AFP report.

The report said the virus has killed a total of 123 birds recently in the area, which is uninhabited and has no domestic birds.

In Myanmar, British and Australian avian flu experts plan to spend 2 months increasing public awareness and combating the spread of the disease, according to another AFP report. Their visit to the central Myanmar farmlands comes after the region experienced more than 100 outbreaks in March.