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Bird flu tests for Indonesia death

Mass culling of bird under way in India
Vaccines are in hot demand as nations rush to vaccinate their flocks.





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Bird flu

(CNN) -- Indonesia says a woman has died of bird flu as a mass culling of poultry in India nears completion.

The woman who died in Jakarta on Monday had reportedly been in contact with chickens infected with the virus, Indonesian health official Hariadi Wibisono said.

Tests are being sent to the World Health Organization to see whether it is the H5N1 strain. That strain already is an epidemic among birds around the world, and has occasionally infected humans.

If it is confirmed to be H5N1, it would be the ninth death in Indonesia this year, and would bring the death toll in that country since last year to 20.

Since re-emerging in 2003, after a deadly bout in Hong Kong in 1997, the disease has claimed more than 90 human lives -- almost all in Asia.

But as the disease spreads to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, about 200 million birds have died or been culled and experts are worried the H5N1 strain may mutate and spread easily between people.

In India, health officials have destroyed more than 700,000 birds in the western state of Maharashtra. (Full story)

Officials are killing all chickens within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the zone where birds have died from the virus.

Indian authorities will hold meetings in the small towns and villages of remote areas in Maharashtra to inform people about bird flu and the steps they can take to stop its spread, Anees Ahmed, minister of India's Department of Animal Husbandry, told CNN.

Residents in those areas do not have easy access to television or newspapers and are largely uninformed about the malady, he added.

So far, only three cases of bird flu have been confirmed among chickens in India. No human cases have been found, officials said, although several people with flu-like symptoms are under observation.

Eight people have been admitted to hospitals in Nandurbar district and samples of their blood have been sent to a national infectious diseases lab, CNN's partner in India, CNN-IBN, reported.

Maria Zampaglione, spokeswoman for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), said Monday there are plans to vaccinate other birds near the affected region.

Farmers are being compensated for the loss of their livestock, but poultry farms in the area will be closed down for three months.

In a country that is the world's fifth-largest exporter of eggs, poultry sales have plummeted, and the national railway and some airlines have stopped serving chicken on their routes.

Spread in Africa

Meanwhile, Nigeria's health minister said Tuesday the virus had been detected among birds in as many as seven states within the country, all in the north.

There were no confirmed human cases yet, but 100 people are under surveillance with flu-like symptoms, Eyitayo Lambo told CNN.

A complete ban on the interstate and intrastate movement of poultry was announced by the government Monday, he said.

In Britain, the famed ravens of the Tower of London have been brought inside to protect them from contracting bird flu, a spokesman for the Tower said Tuesday. (Full story)

So far there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu in England.

Veterinary experts from several European Union countries have been discussing the best way to deal with the H5N1 strain of the virus -- which has shown up in five EU countries so far. (Full story)

No humans have caught the virus in the European Union. Twenty people contracted H5N1 in Turkey, which straddles the continents of Europe and Asia. Of those cases, four were fatal.

A vaccination program is one idea EU veterinary experts are considering, but critics point out that the cost and the application -- two injections at three week intervals -- is impractical.

The vaccination could also mask the symptoms of bird flu in fowl already infected with the disease, making it harder to detect and easier to spread.

The countries listed as having confirmed cases of H5N1 among birds as of February 21 are:

Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Korea and Japan also have confirmed cases of the H5N2 virus, the list shows.

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