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Bird flu mutation could lead to pandemic

Latest update : 2008-04-18

About 65 million Indonesians, equivalent to around a third of the population, could be infected by bird flu disease if the virus mutates, experts warn. With 107 known victims so far, Indonesia is already the world's worst hit country.

More than 60 million Indonesians could be infected with deadly bird flu if the virus mutates into a form transmissible between humans, an official said Friday.

Indonesia is the country worst hit by bird flu, with 107 people known to have died from the disease, 13 of them this year.

Experts fear the virus, which is usually spread from birds to humans, could mutate into a form easily transmissible between people, sparking a deadly global pandemic.

"Some 65 million people or 30 percent of the country's population will be infected if a bird flu pandemic strikes Indonesia," Bayu Krisnamurthi, head of the national committee for control of avian influenza told reporters.

He said the estimated figure was based on the number of fatalities from flu pandemics last century.

Krisnamurthi said Indonesia would hold an emergency drill next week on the resort island of Bali as part of preparations for any such outbreak.

"We never know when it (a pandemic) will happen. This kind of drill will enable us to cope with the situation should one day avian influenza virus mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans," he added.

The drill will involve about 1,000 people and Indonesia "will be the first country in the world that tests its pandemic preparedness plan in full scale," said Krisnamurthi.

Date created : 2008-04-18