Indonesian tests confirmed that a 25-year-woman who died overnight in the capital had bird flu, officials said Wednesday, as they investigated the possibility that several members of one family were infected by the virus. Dr. Ilham Patu said the government would wait to update its human bird flu death toll, which now stands at seven, until the woman's lab tests were confirmed by a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory in Hong Kong.
That could take several days. The H5N1 bird flu virus has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia since 2003, and jumped to humans killing at least 68, most of them in Vietnam and Thailand.
So far, most human cases of the disease have been traced to contact with infected birds. But experts fear a human flu pandemic if the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus mutates into a form that passes easily between people.
Health experts are closely watching possible "clusters" of cases within families or neighborhoods for signs that the virus is being passed between humans.
Patu said alarm bells were raised following the death of two young brothers of a 16-year-old boy who was sickened by bird flu and remains hospitalized in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.
The two boys died before doctors took samples from them, so it was not clear if they if they had been infected by the virus or whether it had been transmitted between family members.
Agriculture officials said they would test people and birds near the family's home in Sumedang town to see if they had the disease, but noted that hundreds of chickens in the area had died, reports the AP. I.L.