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New Reports of Bird Flu in Southeast Asia


Bird flu has killed again in Indonesia and is picking up speed elsewhere in Asia, with fresh outbreaks in Vietnam and a new human case reported in China [Wed., Jan. 10]. The case underscores widespread fears that humans can and do contract the deadly virus.

The H5N1 bird flu virus killed a 14-year-old boy on the outskirts of Jakarta, the country's first fatality in six weeks.

Meanwhile, Vietnam reports that the virus has spread to a fourth province, as officials brace for the worst prior to February's Lunar New Year festivities, when people and poultry are on the move.

Bird flu has killed more than 125 people worldwide. Experts fear millions of people could die if the virus mutates into a strain that is more contagious to people.

Dr. Shan Lu is with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which is trying to develop a DNA-based bird flu vaccine. "Clearly the bird flu is spreading to more places. The question is when they will jump to humans. That is the question we don't know, but we have to prepare."

In Vietnam, recent bird flu outbreaks in southern provinces necessitate the killing of some 30,000 birds. Over a year ago, Vietnam imposed a ban on hatching ducks, but many farmers ignored it. Ducks can carry the virus without showing symptoms. Health experts worry especially about migratory birds, which may spread outbreaks of bird flu.

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