Lombok Teen’s Death Attributed to Bird Flu, Bringing Toll to Six This Year
A 17-year-old teenager in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, is confirmed to have died from bird flu, bringing this year’s death toll from the virus to six.
The Health Ministry said in Jakarta on Monday that the boy, identified only as D., had tested positive for the H5N1 virus at the ministry’s laboratory.
“The test result from our laboratory has confirmed he died from the virus,” said Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the ministry’s director general for disease control and environmental health.
D., a construction worker in West Lombok’s Lingsar subdistrict, reportedly began experiencing feverish symptoms on Feb. 28 but only sought treatment at a nearby community health center on March 1. His health worsened and he was subsequently admitted to the Mataram hospital, where he died on March 9.
A ministry investigation of the teenager’s home found that he was exposed to a dead chicken shortly before getting sick, Tjandra said.
The ministry has reported the case to the World Health Organization, he added, along with that of a 24-year-old woman in Bengkulu who succumbed to bird flu last week.
Concerns about avian influenza have risen in Asia since late December, when China reported its first fatality from the H5N1 virus in 18 months. Since then, one more person has died there.
Indonesia has been the nation hardest-hit by bird flu. So far, 186 people in the country have been diagnosed with the disease, with 156 deaths since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
Worldwide this year, there have been 18 cases of human infection with bird flu in six different countries reported to the WHO. Of these cases, 10 were fatalities.
Vietnam is also battling to contain the spread of the bird flu. Four people have been infected with the virus this year with two fatalities.
The virus typically spreads from bird to human through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.
The virus, which is endemic in wild birds, is fatal in humans around 60 percent of the time.
But even the figure of 332 confirmed bird flu deaths worldwide since 2003 is low compared to the toll taken by human flu and viruses such as HIV, experts say.