Jakarta (AsiaNews) Indonesia's Health Ministry confirmed the first three deaths from bird flu in the country after receiving test results from a World Health Organisation (WHO) lab in Hong Kong. The three are Iwan Siswara Rapei, 38, and his two young daughtersSabrina Nurul Aisyah, 8 and Thalita Nurul Azisah, 1.
Iwan Siswara Rifei, who passed away on July 12, exhibited the typical symptoms of the virus (fever, cough and respiratory problems). His daughters died on July 9 and 14. All three had been hospitalised at Siloam Gleneagles Hospital.
According to Health Ministry officials, no other family member shows signs of infection.
Speaking about the tests at a press conference, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said that the "result is positive. They died of the conventional bird flu virus".
Ms Supari had already suggested on July 15 that it was 99 per cent certain that the deaths were caused by the bird flu, but that whilst the earliest tests showed traces of the H5N1 virus, they were not totally convincing.
She urged the population to avoid panic and announced that the Health and Agriculture Ministries will join forces to monitor the poultry and pig farming sectors.
Jakarta has also set up special veterinary groups to oversee potential carriers.
In the meantime, demand for poultry has drastically dropped in Jakarta and Tangerang.
According to WHO figures, there have been 57 known deaths related to the bird flu during the two peak outbreaks affecting about a hundred people in China and South-East Asia since 2003.
Since its first outbreak, the disease has infected about 100 million birds with 100 per cent mortality.
Contagion in humans can be lethal with a 54 per cent mortality rate in all known cases.