JAKARTA – A TWO-YEAR boy died of suspected bird flu on Thursday in a hospital in Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the virus, medical workers said. The boy died after more than a week of treatment at a hospital in Pekanbaru, Riau province, a hospital nurse who identified herself as Susi told AFP.

A doctor at the hospital, Arifin Achmad, earlier said the boy was suffering from a high fever and severe breathing difficulties.  Health ministry spokesman Lily Sulistyowati said authorities had not yet completed the two separate tests needed to confirm if the boy was infected by the deadly H5N1 virus, and did not expect to announce the results immediately.

‘We are not making the test results public on a case-by-case basis but will be announcing them every three months,’ Ms Sulistyowati said.

The ministry last year stopped confirming individual bird flu deaths, instead opting to announce them in groups weeks or months later.  The H5N1 virus typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.
According to the WHO, H5N1 has killed more than 250 people across the world since 2003. Indonesia’s official bird flu death toll stands at 115. — AFP