LONDON, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Indonesia, the country whose population has been worst hit by avian influenza, has had its death toll officially revised by the World Health Organization, taking the figure to 49.
This latest increase represents the death of a 5-year-old boy who was felled by the disease six months ago, WHO officials announced Wednesday.
Sari Setiogi, a WHO spokeswoman based in Jakarta, explained that the boy's death was added to the country's fatalities when the United Nations' health agency revised its definition of human bird-flu infection.
Last week the WHO added three more deaths to Indonesia's toll -- one from June this year and two from 2005 -- following the revision of its definitions.
The boy, who has not been named, died March 19 following respiratory infection with avian-flu-like symptoms. He came from Bekasi, on the eastern edges of the capital Jakarta, in West Java, which is one of the Indonesian regions worst hit by bird flu. Prior to the child's death, there had been reports of widespread deaths among the region's birds; his neighborhood had been particularly badly hit by the outbreak.
While it is not known how the boy contracted the fatal infection, it is believed that he fell ill after coming into contact with dead or infected poultry, the most common cause of human H5N1 infection.
On Sept. 6 veterinary officials in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, identified a possible outbreak of avian influenza in the region's chickens.
It has since been confirmed to have been the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the deadly strain that has affected much of Asia and parts of Europe and the Middle East, and which experts fear could one day combine with a strain of easily transmissible human or seasonal influenza, sparking off a deadly pandemic.
Officials have placed local health and agricultural authorities on high alerts for signs of the outbreak spreading, and doctors have been told to keep an eye out for possible signs of human infection, should people from the affected area begin reporting respiratory infection and pneumonia-like diseases.
"In addition, the people at the border areas should be on high alert for any suspicious birds or poultry products being brought into the country," a Sudanese official said.
Following earlier reports of an outbreak of avian influenza in neighboring Sudan, a country already badly hit by the humanitarian crisis in the western Darfur region, Ugandan authorities have placed the country on high bird-flu alert.
Sam Okware, the chairperson of Uganda's National Task Force on Bird Flu, told the media that the decision to issue the alert had been made following the Sept. 6 news of avian-flu outbreaks among chickens in Juba, an area of southern Sudan. Uganda is located on Sudan's southern border.
District health officials and veterinary workers in northern Uganda have been placed on high alert for signs of the disease, and those Ugandans who have been traveling to Juba, or to southern Sudan, have also been told to take care.
As Juba is the location of an ongoing series of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army, significant numbers of Ugandans have been traveling to the area to witness the historic discussions.
The Ugandan Health Ministry Monday issued a statement calling on the veterinary and health workers of Uganda to work with their bird-flu task forces to increase local education and awareness of the disease and to improve surveillance methods so that any outbreak is identified and controlled as early as possible.
"In addition, the people at the country's borders should be on high alert for any suspicious birds or poultry products being brought into the country," the statement said.
Officials in Indonesia's West Java have ordered the immediate culling of 4,500 birds in an attempt to curtail the spread of the latest outbreak to hit the besieged region.
Kuningan district, in West Java, last week reported an outbreak of bird flu that had killed 1,500 chickens. No human infections have yet been reported as a result of the latest outbreak.
The cull began in earnest last week, with local authorities going from village to village, exterminating backyard poultry flocks.
"We will continue until (Sunday)," Asep, an official from the Kuningan district office, told the media. "After the outbreak was positive, we decided to cull."