11/05/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA

Fifth bird flu victim in Indonesia

Two other cases of human infection have been confirmed. A global meeting will be held in Geneva on 7 November to coordinate and strengthen interventions, especially in Asia.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia has confirmed the fifth death from bird flu and two new cases of infection. A global meeting is set to convene on Monday 7 November in Geneva in a bid to counter the danger posed by the spread of H5N1 in Asia.

Hariadi Wibisono, Indonesian Health Minister, today confirmed the death of the fifth victim from this lethal virus, the first since July. The victim is a 19-year-old girl from Tangerang, 40 km north-west of Jakarta, who died last month. Another two people have been infected including the victim's nephew aged eight years, said to be in "stable" condition.

This brings the number of official cases of infection in the country up to nine, while tests on two children admitted to hospital with suspect systems have returned negative results. Several experts have said, however, that there were dozens of potential cases of infection which were never verified. Indonesia has only a few laboratories equipped for testing, usually are carried out in Hong Kong. Besides, it is difficult to monitor accurately the spread of the virus in a country with 17,000 islands spread over 5,000km with a population of 220 million inhabitants.

Meanwhile, on 7 November, the first international meeting on bird flu is set to open in Geneva. Representatives from the Asian countries hardest hit by the H5N1 virus are expected above all at the three-day meeting. The aim is coordination of a global and regional response to the emergency and studying ways to strengthen local structures for the prevention and treatment of infection.

In China, the health authorities of Hong Kong and Guandong province decided on 3 November to work together closely in case of an emergency.

Yesterday, the World Bank – one of the organisers of the upcoming meeting – announced a program of 500 million US dollars to help poor countries fight bird flu. Jim Adams, the vice-president of the World Bank, said the funds will go to "help government resources, enhance collaboration of veterinary systems and to carry out the slaughtering and vaccination of animals."

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