Tangerang regency in Banten province has recorded five deaths from bird flu after the latest victim, a 12-year-old boy, died from the virus on Oct. 13.

The regency health agency's head of communicable disease prevention, Yuliah Iskandar, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday the boy, a resident of Ceger village in Sepatan district, had suffered high fever from Sept. 30 but was only admitted to Tangerang General Hospital on Oct. 8.

The boy, identified only as Ir, was then transferred to Persahabatan Hospital on Oct. 9 under suspicions he had contracted bird flu.

Ir had shown symptoms of fever, leucopenia (a decrease in the number of white blood cells), thrombositopenia (a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood) and pneumonia (an infection of the lung that causes respiration problems).

The Health Ministry's research and development center confirmed a day later the boy had been infected by the H5N1 virus.

"He was brought here last Tuesday and placed directly in the special care unit for bird flu patients. He died on Saturday," said an on-duty nurse at the hospital.

Yuliah said the agency had taken blood samples from the victim's family members and his neighbors to be tested at a Health Ministry laboratory, with the results to be announced within three days.

Yuliah said the victim and his family had not had direct contact with live poultry and birds near the house in the village, but there was a poultry-breeding business some 500 meters away from the victim's house.

"We have assigned a team to investigate the source of the H5N1 virus in the neighborhood but there are no indications bird flu has spread in the neighborhood," she said.

Following the deaths of Iwan Siswara, an official at the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), and his two young daughters from bird flu early in July 2005, the central government declared Tangerang a bird flu red zone.

In August, a Tangerang maid died from bird flu two days after being treated for a high fever and acute pneumonia at Tangerang's Sari Asih Hospital.

Her employers, Wahyu Proyato and Winda Amalia, residents of Perumnas II complex in Tangerang regency, said they had no idea how their maid contracted the virus because there were no chickens at their home or in the neighborhood.

Banten province has recorded 19 human cases of bird flu, 15 of which have been fatal.

Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiah issued a bylaw on poultry restrictions on Jan. 19, which included a ban on keeping backyard fowl.

Comment: In a nation where "backyard fowl" are often a key food source one wonders what ordinary Indonesians in this province are expected to eat - maybe chicken produced on corporately owned factory farms?

Unfortunately, the ordinance has yet to take effect due to prolonged protests from the Banten Council.