An Indonesian toddler who died this week has tested positive for bird flu after initial results were inconclusive, a Health Ministry official said on Thursday.
The boy’s 13-year-old sister died of the deadly H5N1 virus last week, according to local tests. Both still need to be confirmed by outside laboratories recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“For the boy in Indramayu, local tests show he died from bird flu,” said Hariadi Wibisono, the ministry’s director of control of animal-borne diseases.
The boy and his sister are Indonesia’s fifth cluster of cases, where people living in close proximity have fallen ill.
There has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission in their deaths and dead chickens were found in the neighborhood around Indramayu, West Java province, officials have said. Indramayu is 175 km (110 miles) east of Jakarta.
WHO-recognized laboratories have confirmed 12 deaths in Indonesia and five cases where patients have survived. It is usually some days before confirmation is available.
Apart from the two Indramayu children, Indonesia is awaiting confirmation from local tests that showed a 39-year-old man died of bird flu earlier this month.
The H5N1 virus is not known to pass easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic that might kill millions of people.
It is confirmed to have killed 79 people in six countries since late 2003.
The highly pathogenic strain is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, and has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands and 220 million people.
Indonesia has millions of chickens and ducks, many in the yards of rural or urban homes, raising the risk of more humans becoming infected.