October 11, 2011

Denpasar: Avian flu claimed its first human victims this year on Sunday night after two children from Jehem village, Bangli, passed away in Sanglah Central Hospital in Denpasar. Five-year-old N.R. died at 8:20 p.m., while her 10-year-old brother, W.A., died at around midnight. The medical team has confirmed that the two children were infected with the avian flu virus based on the results of three tests at different labs.

IGB Ken Wirasandhi from the Sanglah Hospital’s avian flu treatment team said that the two children were referred from Bangli regional hospital with breathing difficulties.

“They were already in a severe condition and losing consciousness, and they had had fever for 12 days. We tried our best by implementing the protocol for handling avian flu patients, but they didn’t survive,” he said.

The victims’ bodies will be kept in the hospital’s morgue for a week because their family refused to cremate them right away as suggested by the medical team. The team stated that bodies cremated immediately could prevent the possible further spread of the disease. The family argued that it would not be possible for them to organize a cremation since their village was currently holding a religious temple festival. Balinese Hinduism prohibits its adherents from organizing death-related rituals during major temple festivals.

IGN Mahardika, a researcher of the avian flu virus, said Bali was still vulnerable to avian flu transmission due to ecological factors. He urged the Husbandry Agency to immediately send the samples taken during the rapid tests to a laboratory for more extensive tests.

“Laboratory research has shown that the virus remains H5N1, but it is necessary to keep studying the possibility of mutation,” he said. ” We are also concerned that there might be human-to-human transmission, as is possible in the case of this brother and sister,” he added.

Previous research by veterinarian IGN Badiwangsa in Klungkung has concluded that the avian flu virus emerges at times when local people hold numerous religious celebrations. The celebrations usually increase the frequency of the transportation and slaughter of poultry, most of which is conducted in an unhygienic way. Several rituals even stipulate the killing of poultry as sacrificial animals. The poultry is killed in front of many people and the blood is sprinkled onto the ground.


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