Latest bird flu case in Indonesia raises concern

In the latest news on the bird flu front the World Health Organization (WHO) says the daughter of an Indonesian women from West Jakarta who tested positive for bird flu has also contracted the virus.

The 14-year-old girl developed symptoms on February 2nd, was hospitalized on February 8th and remains in a critical condition at a Jakarta hospital.

The girl's 38-year-old mother developed symptoms on 23rd of January and was hospitalized with the bird flu virus since January 26th; her condition is said to be improving.

Authorities are concerned that the case could be one of human-to-human transmission.

While investigations into the source of her infection are ongoing, it has been revealed that the girl was exposed to her sick mother between the 27th and 28th of January.

The girl had also spent time at her grandmother's house where chickens and and water fowl had died suddenly; authorities say the grandmother is not sick.

Tests are underway on samples from the birds in order to determine whether they may have been the source of infection and to establish whether the girl contracted the virus from her mother or from an infected chicken or its droppings which has been the source of most of Indonesia's 103 fatal cases.

When it comes to containing the spread of viruses such as the deadly bird flu Indonesia is a concern.

The vast archipelago has a poultry population of 1.2 billion a year, including 285 million chickens which are in the main kept by families in their backyards which is a common feature of rural life.

Many Indonesians often choose to ignore government regulations banning people from keeping poultry in such circumstances and there is a reluctance to cull sick and infected birds by poor families who see their poultry as a source of both food and income.

This has exacerbated the situation and hampered efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Contact with sick fowl remains is the most likely method of contracting bird flu and the virus is endemic in bird populations in most of Indonesia.

But experts worry that the virus will ultimately mutate into a strain which is transferred from human to human, creating the potential for a worldwide pandemic.

To date of the 127 cases of the H5N1 avian virus in Indonesia, 103 have been fatal.

Indonesia has the highest death toll of any nation in the world.

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