From: Reuters
Published February 18, 2008 04:37 AM

Indonesian boy dies of bird flu

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A 3-year-old Indonesian boy from South Jakarta has died from bird flu, taking the country's death toll from the virus to 105, a health ministry official said on Monday.

Nyoman Kandun, director general of communicable disease control at the ministry, said the boy died on Friday and two tests had confirmed he contracted the H5N1 virus.

"Most people in his neighborhood keep chicken in their backyard, so it was very likely that the boy had contact with chicken," Kandun told Reuters.

Indonesia has a poultry population of 1.2 billion a year, including 285 million chickens kept by families in their backyards.

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Contact with sick fowl is the most common way of contracting bird flu, endemic in bird populations in most of Indonesia.

There has been a sudden spike in bird flu cases in Indonesia since the start of the year. Some experts say the flare-up is caused by factors such as damp weather and poor sanitation during the rainy season.

Indonesia has the highest number of bird flu deaths in the world.

Although bird flu remains an animal disease, experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human. Millions of people could die because they would have no immunity to the new strain.

(Reporting by Mita Valina Liem; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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