Chickens are kept in a barn before being sent to a local market in central Jakarta
Supri  /  Reuters
Chickens are kept in a barn before being sent to a local market, in central Jakarta.
updated 7/20/2006 10:50:27 AM ET 2006-07-20T14:50:27

Indonesia recorded its 42nd human bird flu death on Thursday, bringing the sprawling nation even with neighboring Vietnam as the two worst-hit countries by the virus, a senior health ministry official said Thursday.

Indonesia received confirmation from a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory in Hong Kong that a 44-year-old man who died last week on the outskirts of Jakarta had the H5N1 virus, Nyoman Kandun said.

Bird flu has killed at least 132 people worldwide since it started ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, according to WHO. That tally does yet include the death of the 44-year-old man.

Most people sickened by H5N1 have come into contact with infected birds and it remains very difficult for humans to catch. But experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, possibly sparking a pandemic that could kill millions around the world.

Vietnam has seen 42 people die from the virus since 2003, but has not recorded any new human deaths this year, thanks in part to an aggressive campaign to slaughter all birds in infected areas.

Indonesia has been criticized by some for not carrying out widespread culling.

The country has an estimated 2 billion chickens and the virus is endemic in poultry in 27 of its 33 provinces. Culling all the birds would require a massive amount of compensation to farmers and backyard chicken owners.

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