Bird flu death toll in Indonesia reaches 55

There have been another two confirmed deaths from bird flu in Indonesia which has taken the death toll there to 55.

A 67-year-old woman from West Java province developed bird flu like symptoms on October 3rd, was hospitalised on October 7th, and subsequently died on October 15th.

Also a 27-year-old woman who became ill on October 8th and was hospitalised on October 12th, died on October 13th.

Investigations are underway to establish if either of the women had any contact with infected birds.

To date, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the sprawling archipelago has had 72 cases of human bird flu which spread from Asia in 2003 and has now touched Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says that outbreaks have been confirmed in as many as 50 countries and territories, and since the beginning of this year more than 30 countries have reported outbreaks, involving in the main wild birds such as swans.

According to the WHO since 2003 the virus has caused 151 people human deaths in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam and infected 256 people; many of those who have died are children and young adults.

Indonesia and Vietnam have the highest number of confirmed cases, accounting for 97 of the total deaths.

The H5N1 virus has been around as far back as 1959 when it was responsible for an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Scotland.

There are numerous bird flu virus strains which in the past have been responsible for the death and destruction of millions of birds.

The H5N1 virus first jumped across to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six and it was only the immediate culling of the territory's entire poultry flock, which halted the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the symptoms of the deadly virus are similar to the normal influenza symptoms and range from fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, to eye inflammations (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications.

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