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Indonesian Man Dies From Bird Flu

July 16, 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A 44-year-old man died of bird flu in Indonesia, a senior health official said Sunday, putting the country on the cusp of being the world’s hardest hit by the disease.

If the diagnosis by a local lab is confirmed by a World Health Organization-sanctioned test, the number of people killed by bird flu in Indonesia would rise to at least 42, tying it with hardest-hit Vietnam.

The man died July 12 after being hospitalized for two days with high fever, coughing and breathing difficulties, said the official, Nyoman Kandun.

``Local tests showed he was infected with the H5N1 virus,″ he said.

The man was from eastern outskirts of the capital Jakarta and had reportedly had contact with birds.

Bird flu has killed at least 132 people worldwide since it started ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, according to the WHO.

Most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that makes it more easily transmissible among humans, possibly sparking a pandemic.

Vietnam has not recorded any new human deaths this year, thanks in part to an aggressive campaign to slaughter all birds in infected areas, slowing the disease’s spread.

But Indonesia’s caseload is increasing faster than any other country in the world _ with all of its deaths occurring in the last year. The government says it cannot afford to routinely cull fowl in infected areas.

Update hourly