(NaturalNews) After experts confirmed this week that 9-year-old Ai Siti Aminah was Indonesia's 45th bird flu death -- the highest number of bird flu fatalities in any country -- health authorities began investigating whether the girl was part of a cluster of human cases.
Scientist say it is important to look closely at cluster cases because they increase the chances of the H5N1 virus mutating to a strain easily transmitted from human to human. A previously discovered cluster case, the world's first, was discovered in Indonesia three months ago and took the lives of seven family members. There was a slight mutation in the virus among these cases, but experts deemed it insignificant.
According to a spokesman for the Bird Flu Information Center, samples of Aminah's blood were sent to both a U.S.-run laboratory and the National Health Ministry -- a step that's required before Indonesian health authorities report bird flu deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO) -- and a team of experts from both the ministry and WHO were sent to check for evidence of a cluster case in Cikelet, the remote area in West Java's Garut district where Aminah was from.
Cikelet is not far from the home village of 17-year-old Umar Aup -- who tested positive for bird flu -- and his 20-year-old cousin who died from the disease. Both were known to have come into contact with dead, infected poultry, but it is not yet known whether Aminah came into contact with the two boys.