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Bird Flu Cases Climb in Indonesia; Virus Kills Poultry in Japan

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Bird flu killed two more Indonesians, infected fowl in Japan and reached another Vietnamese province, signaling a resurgence of outbreaks similar to last year, when the virus spread to more than 30 countries in the first quarter.

Indonesia's latest fatalities were women in their 20s from areas near the capital, Jakarta, said Joko Suyono, an official at the Health Ministry's avian flu emergency center. Nine other Indonesians may have contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Veterinary officials in Japan are culling fowl on a farm on the southern island of Kyushu, where H5N1 was confirmed today, the country's first outbreak in almost three years. Vietnam reported infected poultry in Tra Vinh, the sixth southern province to record an outbreak in the past month. The infections provide more chances for the H5N1 virus to mutate into a pandemic form.

"This time last year, it began to pop similarly and then it began to spread,' Peter Cordingley, a Manila-based spokesman for the World Health Organization, said in a Jan. 11 interview. [...] "We don't know whether it's going to happen that way this year, but this virus is very versatile and I think it would be foolish to bet against it.'

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza is known to have infected 265 people in 10 countries since 2003, killing 159 of them, the WHO said yesterday. Millions could die if H5N1 mutates and begins spreading easily between people, sparking a global outbreak.


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