JAKARTA (AFP) -Indonesia has confirmed its fifth death from bird flu after tests by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ilham Patu, a spokesman for the Sulianti Saroso hospital for infectious diseases, confirmed the death as well as another case about which he could not reveal any details.
Both were confirmed by the WHO, Patu said.
"There are two more cases confirmed following results of tests by the WHO in Hong Kong," Patu told AFP.
He said one of the two new confirmed cases was a woman, Ina Solati, 19, who died at a hospital in suburban Tanggerang on October 28. Solati was the mother of a young girl.
"The second case is still confidential and I cannot divulge anything yet," he said, also declining to say whether the person had died or was still alive.
Before the two new cases, at least four other people had died of avian influenza in Indonesia. Three others have been confirmed as infected but have either recovered or are still being treated.
Doctors at Patu”s hospital were also treating as a suspected case of bird flu a nurse who had cared for the latest victim, Solati.
The nurse was admitted to hospital on Thursday night with symptoms of bird flu.
"She was suffering from high fever and coughing," Patu said.
Solati”s daughter and two nephews were also admitted to Sulianti Saroso hospital showing the same symptoms. He said the victims were all in close contact with chickens and doves kept as backyard animals at their houses.
But Patu said the conditions of the three young children — aged between five months and eight years — have since improved.
He said they appeared not to have contracted the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza.
"But we cannot yet say whether they are infected or not until the results of the tests in Hong Kong," Patu said.
More than 60 people have died from the H5N1 strain since 2003, most of them in Vietnam. The virus has also spread to birds in Europe.
It is a threat to humans who come into close proximity with infected birds, notably by breathing virus-laden nasal secretions or dried, pulverized feces.
Scientists fear the current H5N1 strain of the virus may mutate, acquiring genes from the human influenza virus that would make it highly infectious as well as lethal — possibly killing millions worldwide.
So far, though, there is no proof of human-to-human transmission although many scientists believe there may have been cases of limited transmission between humans.
Indonesia”s latest death comes ahead of the biggest international meeting on the bird flu crisis, which opens Monday in Geneva.
The three-day gathering is the first of the World Bank and of the three agencies coordinating the global response to avian influenza — the WHO, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
National representatives, especially from the flu-stricken countries of Asia, will also attend.
An Indonesian scientist last month accused the government of covering up an initial outbreak of bird flu in the country and of secretly using untested vaccines in a bid to halt its spread.
Chairul Nidom, a senior Indonesian microbiologist who first revealed the bird flu outbreak in January last year, said that if action had been taken promptly, "the damage wouldn”t have been great and the risks to humans could have been minimised." Nidom is a researcher at the Center for Tropical Diseases at state-run Airlangga University in Surabaya.
About seven million birds have been culled in Indonesia as a precaution against the virus” spread, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has expressed concern at a lack of awareness in rural communities about the threat posed by the virus.