Jakarta (AsiaNews) Indonesia's Health Ministry has confirmed that the death of Iwan Siswara Rifei (37) and his two young children Thalita Nurul Azizah (1) and Sabrina Nurul Aisyah (8) are "99 per cent because of the bird flu".
In a statement, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said that it was reasonable to believe that the deaths were due to the H5N1 virus, which causes the bird flu. "It is not SARS, as some might have thought," she said.
But the final proof will come from a Hong Kong lab. "Laboratory analysis has shown traces but we are not still fully convinced. We have to wait for other laboratory analyses made in Hong Kong. In a week, the results should be in," Minister Supari added.
Iwan Siswara Rifei died on July 12 after exhibiting the typical symptoms associated with SARS (high fever, endless cough, and respiratory problems). His daughters passed away on July 9 and 14. All three had been hospitalized in Siloam Gleneagles Hospital. No other member of the family shows signs of the disease.
The Indonesian government has set up special veterinary units to inspect poultry, pigs and rats, all of whom can carry the virus.
On several occasions, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has invited the governments whose countries have been affected by the virus to communicate rapidly and clearly all information about risk situations. It warned that as the virus moves, there a greater risks that it might mutate into a form that can cause human-to-human contagion.
According to WHO figures, so far there have been 54 known deaths related to the bird flu during the two peak outbreaks that have affected about a hundred people in China and South-East Asia since 2003.
Since its first outbreak, the disease has also struck about 100 million birds; in poultry, the mortality rate has been 100 per cent.
Contagion in humans can be lethal with a 54 per cent mortality rate in all known cases.