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Bird flu returning to parts of Asia

Indonesia reported its 93d human death. China said a 24-year-old man died from the disease.

HANOI, Vietnam - Bird flu has resurfaced in parts of Asia, with human deaths reported in Indonesia and China and fresh outbreaks plaguing other countries during the winter months, when the virus typically flares.

Indonesia, the nation hardest hit by the H5N1 virus, announced its 93d death yesterday. A 47-year-old man died a day earlier in a Jakarta hospital, Health Ministry spokesman Joko Suyono said. The man fell ill Dec. 2 and was admitted with flulike symptoms, becoming Indonesia's 115th person infected with the disease.

Most human cases everywhere have been linked to physical contact with sick birds. None has been traced to eating properly cooked poultry or eggs, experts said.

In China, the military in eastern Nanjing banned the sale of poultry this week after a father and son came down with the disease this month. Officials confirmed that the 24-year-old man died from the virus - he was China's 17th death from bird flu - one day before his father, 52, became sick.

The two were believed to have eaten a traditional dish known as "beggar's chicken," in which the bird is wrapped in lotus leaves and baked. But the cause of infection remained unclear.

The father is recovering after taking the antiviral Tamiflu, said Hans Troedsson, World Health Organization representative in China. More than 80 people who had contact with the family are being monitored for symptoms.

Local animal-health officials said last week that no H5N1 outbreaks had been detected among the province's poultry, but Troedsson said sick birds typically were not reported before human deaths in China - a sign the country's surveillance needs to be improved.

The virus has killed 208 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry in late 2003, according to the WHO.

Scientists say it is impossible to predict what the H5N1 virus will do, but more outbreaks often occur when temperatures drop in winter.

Officials in Pakistan were investigating the country's first suspected bird-flu cases yesterday after two poultry-farm workers died this week. They had been hospitalized with flulike symptoms in Peshawar, said Khushdil Khan, medical superintendent of Khyber Teaching Hospital.

Blood samples were sent to the Health Ministry in Islamabad for testing, but the results have not been confirmed, Khan said. Pakistan has grappled with bird-flu outbreaks among poultry for the last two years, but no human cases have been reported.

The disease has resurfaced in Vietnam in recent months, killing or forcing the slaughter of thousands of birds. So far, 46 people have died.

Hong Kong yesterday closed its famed Mai Po bird sanctuary to the public for three weeks after a wild gray heron found nearby tested positive for the virus.

Russia and Poland also have experienced recent poultry outbreaks. Neither has detected human cases.