Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Avian Influenza in Humans Confirmed in Indonesia

14 July 2006

More Avian Influenza in Humans Confirmed in Indonesia
More children die after exposure to diseased birds

By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer

Photo Snapshot

Children play with a chicken in Kedaung village, near Jakarta, Indonesia, June 3, 2006. Two children from the village are reported to have died from the H5N1 bird flu virus. (©AP/WWP)

Children play with a chicken near Jakarta, Indonesia, June 3, 2006. (©AP/WWP)Washington – Avian influenza has killed another child in Indonesia, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed July 14.

A 3-year-old child from a suburb of Jakarta died on July 6, about two weeks after she first became ill. Medical authorities have confirmed she was infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which now has killed a total of 132 people worldwide. Indonesia has reported more cases of the disease than any other nation so far in 2006 with a total of 36 cases causing 30 deaths.

As of July 14, WHO reports a total of 230 human cases of H5N1 avian influenza in 10 nations. Health authorities warn that if this viral strain becomes contagious among humans a global influenza pandemic could develop, with a death toll potentially in the millions.

In the first week of July, medical authorities reported the death of another Indonesian child, a 5-year-old boy from East Java who died in mid-June. He, too, had been exposed to ailing chickens at his family’s home in the weeks before his death.

The deaths of children are tragic under any circumstances, but epidemiologists have not found any evidence that youngsters have a special biologic vulnerability to H5N1. Rather, studies suggest that their vulnerability lies in demographics. Nearly 29 percent of the population in Indonesia is under age 14, so odds are in favor of a seemingly high number of cases appearing in youngsters.

Children’s habits and responsibilities in the households of the worst affected nations are another factor, studies show. Children frequently share the yard around the house with domestic poultry. They often are given the jobs of gathering eggs or of catching and de-feathering the birds when a family meal is being prepared. This activity gives them greater opportunity to be exposed to the birds, their feathers or feces, all of which can be a route of transmission for the virus. (See related article.)


Reports of H5N1 in domestic or wild bird populations have dropped significantly in June and July, after a rapid spread of the virus out of East Asia, across Central Asia into Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the first four months of 2006.

Spain is the exception. One of the few European nations that did not spot a case during that rapid spread early in the year, Spain reported its first occurrence of H5N1 to the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) July 7.

Spanish animal health authorities spotted the virus in a single great crested grebe – a water bird related to the loon – in a wetland located in the northern Basque region.

Spanish authorities reported to the OIE that they had created a 10-kilometer surveillance zone around the outbreak in which the movement of poultry, other captive birds and their products is prohibited. A ban on gathering of live birds and hunting of wild game birds also has been imposed.

Migration of wild birds has been suggested as a probable cause of the spread of H5N1 across broad geographic areas, but transportation of domestic birds and bird products in agricultural trade is also considered a likely means of travel for the virus. (See related article.)

The United States is a key backer of the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which involves about 90 other nations. With pledges of more than $334 million, the United States is involved a variety of activities to assist other nations in improving both animal and human health disease surveillance and containment to prevent a pandemic. (See related article.)

For ongoing coverage, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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