Woman's Death Marks Indonesia's 59th Human Bird Flu Fatality

An Indonesian woman died from bird flu while a second was in critical condition Friday, as the country worst hit by the virus battled new cases following a six-week lull, health officials said.

A teenage boy died earlier this week. All three cases occurred in the industrial town of Tangerang to the west of the capital, Jakarta. The 37-year-old woman died late Thursday after being admitted to a Jakarta hospital.

The woman's husband and 18-year-old son were being treated for symptoms of the H5N1 virus, said Haris Sugiantoro, an official at the Health Ministry's bird flu information center.

Tests also confirmed a 22-year-old woman was suffering from the virus, said Joko Suyono, another official at the center. Neighbors reported chickens living near her house died suddenly and the woman was seen picking one up and scratching her nose soon after.

"She is now in critical condition in an intensive care unit of the hospital," Suyono said.

In Nigeria, meanwhile, a new outbreak of the H5N1 virus was reported in birds in two states. Sokoto state in Nigeria's far north reported its first cases, while nearby Katsina state reported a re-infection, said Junaid Maina, the head of Nigeria's livestock department. The last known infection was in September.

In Japan, agricultural officials ordered a nationwide inspection of poultry farms Friday after hundreds of chickens died in the south this week in a suspected bird flu outbreak.

The government order followed the deaths of 750 chickens Wednesday and Thursday at a farm in the town of Kiyotake in Miyazaki prefecture, an Agricultural Ministry official said. The results of a preliminary bird flu test were positive Friday, said prefectural official Masao Tanaka, but he cautioned the final results would not be known until at least early Saturday.

Bird flu is generally not harmful to humans, but the H5N1 strain of the virus has claimed at least 157 lives worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry farms in late 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, a 14-year-old Indonesian boy from Tangerang died after being treated for four days at the same hospital.

He was the country's first fatality in six weeks — a pause that had led Indonesian officials to say they were making progress in the fight against the disease.

"Indonesia has been on the right track in handling the bird flu, but the danger still exists," Bayu Krisnamurthi, head of the country's bird flu commission, told reporters. "We hope the virus decreases more this year, but the war is continuing."

At least 59 people have now died from bird flu in Indonesia — more than a third of the world's total.