Indonesian suspected bird flu case dies; symptoms included encephalitis

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Indonesian authorities are conducting tests on samples taken from a suspected bird flu patient who died on Thursday, May 5. The 26-year-old poultry trader from Sukoharjo, Central Java, died after being hospitalized for three days. If confirmed, this will be the 95th case of human H5N1 infection in Indonesia.

The Indonesian daily Suara Merdeka reports that, in addition to high fever, the victim's symptoms included bronchitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Encephalitis has been reported in other H5N1 cases, including that of a 67-year-old woman from West Java who died in October 2006. In her case, the H5N1 virus was reported to have been found in her cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

The Kedaulatan Rakyat, a newspaper based in Yogyakarta, reports that following the death of the 26-year-old man on Thursday, 125 of his neighbors have been examined for signs of bird flu and 34 have been tested for the virus. Thirty are reported to have flu-like symptoms but are said to be suffering from seasonal flu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a total of 81 H5N1 cases including 63 deaths in Indonesia since 2005. However, there have been at least an additional 13 locally confirmed H5N1 cases including 11 deaths in Indonesia since January 29 of this year. According to these figures, Indonesia has had the highest number (94+) of H5N1 human infections, surpassing Vietnam's total of 93 cases. The WHO has not had access to H5N1 samples from Indonesia since January when a dispute arose over the use of H5N1 samples from Indonesia in commercially made vaccines.

Scientists fear the deadly H5N1 strain could mutate and become easily transmissible among people, triggering a devastating pandemic. According to the WHO, last year in Indonesia a 32-year-old man was probably infected with H5N1 via his 10-year-old son (both died), suggesting that the virus had in that instance acquired the ability to transmit human-to-human, albeit in a limited manner. The father and son were part of a larger, familial cluster in which at least six persons died.