Indonesia confirms two human bird flu cases: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Indonesia has confirmed two new cases of human bird flu, the first officially reported since September in the country which remains the hardest-hit by the deadly virus, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

A nine-year-old girl in Riau province developed symptoms on November 7 after poultry apparently died at her home, the WHO said in a statement. She was hospitalized five days later and discharged on November 22 after recovering.

A two-year-old girl from East Jakarta died on November 29 after developing symptoms on November 18, it said. “Investigations into the source of her infection suggest exposure at a live bird market.”

The two latest cases took Indonesia’s known number of bird flu infections to 139, including 113 deaths, since 2003, according to the United Nations health agency.

It was not immediately clear why the WHO toll does not include a 15-year-old Indonesian girl in central Java whose doctor said she had died in early November. Presence of the virus had been confirmed in a health ministry lab, according to Agus Suryanto, head of the medical team treating the girl.

Worldwide, there have been 389 cases including 246 fatalities since 2003, WHO says. Vietnam has the second highest number of cases (106) among 15 countries with known human cases.

Although bird flu remains an animal disease, experts fear that the H5N1 virus might mutate into a form easily passed from human to human, sparking a pandemic which could kill millions.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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