First human case of bird flu found in Indonesia

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the first human case of bird flu has been diagnosed in Indonesia.

According to a Jakarta-based official, earlier this month a poultry worker tested positive for the virus but no longer has any symptoms of the disease, and he no longer carries the virus.

After an outbreak hit South Sulawesi province in March killing around 25,000 fowl, out of the 81 people subsequently tested, his was the only test at a Hong Kong laboratory which showed a positive result, which prompted a second examination.

Epidemiologist Steven Bjorge says the second test showed exactly the same result as the first test, with what is called a very low concentration of antibody.

Had the second test showed a high concentration of antibody that would have indicated that he had a recent infection.

The second test was completed this month but health officials have lost track of the person after his poultry business went bankrupt.

The H5N1 virus has killed 54 people across Asia, including 38 Vietnamese, 12 Thais and four Cambodians since late 2003.

Since the emergence of the disease in late 2003 in Indonesia, health authorities have tested more than 1,000 samples from poultry workers, veterinarians and others exposed to the deadly disease.

Indonesia's agriculture ministry says sporadic H5N1 outbreaks have been reported in fowl in South Sulawesi, West Java and Central Java in the first three months of this year, and confirmed the virus had jumped species when it was discovered in pigs last month.

Scientists fear the avian flu, which is infectious in birds but does not spread easily among humans, could mutate into a form capable of generating a pandemic in which millions of people without immunity could die.

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