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Bird Flu Alarm In Indonesia

Jakarta – Bird flu has been detected throughout the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with the country's Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono admitting: //'It's very serious. Based on our research, the virus has spread all over the city.'

The H5N1 virus has been found in 23 of Indonesia's 30 provinces and has killed seven people.

Indonesian health authorities and the WHO have warned more cases could be expected, saying that the virus has spread to at least 22 of the vast archipelago's 33 provinces, killing more than 9.5 million poultry since late 2003.

Almost simultaneously with news of the city plight came word that Swiss-based drug manufacturer Roche will let Indonesia produce the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to help fight cases of bird flu in humans.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said she had received permission from Roche earlier Friday, so 'we can produce Tamiflu in our own factories in three to five months.' Tamiflu, with the generic name oseltamivir, has shown promise in treating human infections. Supari said production would start as 'soon as possible' after the government had decided whether to source the raw materials for the drug from China or Korea. Roche would provide assistance in the production process. Supari said that 90 percent state- owned Kimia Farma has already said it wanted to produce the drug but that 'anyone with experience' can apply for a license. In Switzerland, a spokesman for Roche said Indonesia was free to produce Tamiflu as long as the product was distributed only in the domestic market. Meanwhile, bird flu was also spreading in Vietnam on Friday, with the case of a man suspected to be infected with the virus fleeing a hospital quarantine unit causing particular alarm. Outbreaks have been reported in 19 other provinces since October, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than a million birds.

In southern Tien Giang province, a man who had been admitted to hospital after complaining of a high fever was transferred to an isolation ward. But he left - saying he needed to buy personal items - and never returned. The man had told doctors that he slaughtered his sick chickens a week before falling ill.

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