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Deaths in Vietnam, Indonesia as bird flu experts meet in Geneva


HANOI, Nov 8 (AFP): Vietnam confirmed Tuesday its 42nd death from bird flu since late 2003 and Indonesia reported a suspected sixth fatality as experts met in Geneva to figure out ways to combat the spread of the virus.
The latest victim was a 35-year-old man from Hanoi who died on October 29, more than three months after Vietnam's last known death and shortly after a fresh outbreak was announced in the north of the country.
In Indonesia, a 16-year-old girl died Tuesday three days after she was admitted to a hospital in the capital Jakarta with symptoms of the disease, doctors said.
"Based on the symptoms, especially high fever, heavy pneumonia and a rapid lowering of lymphocyte cells in the blood, I tend to believe that the patient has bird flu," said hospital spokesman Ilham Patu.
News of the deaths came hours after experts meeting in Geneva warned that a flu pandemic was inevitable, could kill millions and inflict up to 800 billion dollars in economic damage if the world failed to defend itself.
Samuel Jutzi, the FAO's director of animal production and health, told the meeting in Geneva Monday that the "window of opportunity" remained open for tackling the threat at its source -- on farms.
"The virus has not yet reassorted or mutated," said Jutzi. "Action is required now. There is no time to lose here."
The three-day Geneva meeting is the most senior global meeting of doctors, veterinarians and public-health officials since the H5N1 influenza virus erupted in Asian poultry flocks in 2003 and started to claim human lives.
The conference takes place against a backdrop of growing concern about rolling back H5N1 in Asia, its spread to Europe and the vulnerability of Africa, the world's poorest continent.