Local tests showed that a 39-year-old man died of bird flu in a wealthy neighborhood of Indonesia's capital, a senior health ministry official said Friday. If the results are confirmed by a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong, the country's human toll from the disease would reach 10, said I Nyoman Kandun. The latest victim died earlier this week in Kemang, a district in Jakarta that is home to many expatriates, and 10 birds in the area also tested positive for the disease, he said. They were immediately killed, he said.
Blood samples have been taken from the man's relatives and neighbors to see if they contracted the H5N1 strain of the virus that has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia since 2003 and killed at least 71 humans.
Most human cases of the disease have been traced to contact with infected birds. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people, possibly sparking a pandemic. Vietnam and Thailand have had the most human fatalities. But Indonesia's number is steadily rising, with all of its confirmed deaths occurring in the last six months. On Thursday, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said she hoped to reach a deal with U.S. drug manufacturer Baxter Healthcare Corp. soon to develop a bird flu vaccine. Kim C. Bush, Baxter's president for vaccine production, said the company was considering the proposal, reports the AP. I.L.