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New virus caused dengue outbreak JAKARTA - A new virus strain could be responsible for an outbreak of dengue fever in Indonesia that has killed at least 169 people since the start of the year, health officials said Wednesday. "I think it's a new strain. That's why we have asked microbiology experts at universities to conduct research," said Rita Kusriastuti, head of the health ministry's arbovirology section.
Kusriastuti said that since January 1, 169 people had died in eight provinces as of Tuesday and more than 8,350 cases of infection had been reported -- mainly on Java island where over half of Indonesia's 212 million people live. She said the number of infections was more than twice as high as in the same period last year. In Jakarta alone, 2,963 people had been infected with the mosquito-transmitted disease since January 1, five times as many as in December, and 25 people had been reported dead, she said.
Over the whole of last year 59 people died of dengue fever in Jakarta. The health ministry's director-general for communicable diseases, Umar Fahmi Achmadi, said a new sub-type of dengue virus in addition to the existing four sub-variants may be responsible, but it would take some time until the suspicion could be confirmed. "It is not easy because the chances of finding the virus are only 15 per cent. Once we have found the virus then we can identify it. But it will take some time," he said.
The fatality rate of this year's outbreak is at two per cent compared with less than one per cent in previous years, he said. Achmadi said the ministry had established a team to carry out tests. The head of the World Health Organisation in Indonesia, Georg Petersen, said his office would investigate the outbreak but declined to say whether he thought a new strain was involved.
"I'm just starting to investigate the case and I don't want to comment until I have talked to the health ministry to avoid a misunderstanding," he said. The health ministry has allocated 10 billion rupiah (1.2 million dollars) for fumigation. Dengue fever is spread by aedes mosquitoes and there is no vaccine or cure apart from rest. Between 50 and 100 million people around the world catch dengue fever each year. Some 200,000-500,000 of these cases are the potentially life-threatening dengue haemhorragic fever.
Vice-President Hamzah Haz called on authorities to give the public transparent information on the outbreak. "Defensiveness like in the handling of bird flu should be avoided because (such an attitude) will be detrimental to the public," Haz was quoted as saying by the state Antara news agency. Indonesia has been criticised for its slow response to the bird flu outbreak and has given conflicting statements on its policy.



Posted in Dengue Fever @ 19 February 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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