Pigs tested positive for bird flu in Indonesia

Poultry and pigs tested positive for bird flu in a district where the H5N1 virus killed four family members and infected another, Indonesia said Thursday, pleading for international help fighting the disease.

The multiple infections among people living in Tanah Karo,an area on Sumatra island previously believed to be free of the disease, raised concerns that the virus had mutated into a form easily passed between humans.

But international and local officials said that, while further investigations were needed, it appeared unlikely that had happened.

Agricultural Minister Anton Apriantono told reporters initial tests on dozens of chickens, ducks and pigs living in Tanah Karo came back positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The findings still needed to be reconfirmed, he said.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Sari Setiogi, meanwhile, said there was "no evidence that the virus has spread beyond this family, this cluster."

"Other family members, neighbors and health workers tested negative," she said, adding that the probe was not yet complete.

Right now "it is not a disease of human beings, it is a disease of animals," Jacques Diouf, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, told reporters Thursday in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

"If we are able to eliminate or at least limit the number of birds that are infected, then we would limit the risk of transmission to human beings and other consequences of mutation for direct transmission from human to human," he said, reports the AP.

I.L.