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    Indonesia reports two more suspected H5N1 deaths

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    Two more people have died in Indonesia over the last ten days after apparently contracting the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

    JAKARTA, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Two more people have died in Indonesia over the last ten days after apparently contracting the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

    A preliminary test has revealed the presence of the pathogenic virus in the blood of a 15-year-old boy from Indramayu, in West Java, and a 22-year-old woman from Palembang, in southeastern Sumatra.

    The results of a second test are yet to be released. If they confirm the initial test results, Indonesia's death toll from bird flu will rise to 68. The virus has already claimed more lives in the fourth most populated nation than in any other country.

    An initial test also detected the virus in a 39-year-old man from Mojokerto, in Indonesia's East Java.

    A top flu official at the World Health Organization said Monday that Russian research could be important in the fight against a possible global pandemic of bird flu.

    Since 2003, when bird flu first hit Asian countries, 281 people have contracted the disease and 169 of them have died, according to the WHO's latest global data. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, sparking a pandemic across the world.

    David Heymann said the WHO was studying the possibility of using Russian vaccines against the deadly virus. Weakened living vaccines can be produced in greater numbers for a relatively short time. Russian vaccines could also be delivered nasally, which is a further advantage, Heymann said.

    WHO said an average of 350 million doses of flu vaccine can currently be produced annually. Although their number could increase to 500 million doses, it still falls short of what may be required if a pandemic occurs with a global population of 6.7 billion.

    Russia has completed the first phase of clinical trials for a human vaccine against the H5N1 strain. Researchers said they had developed vaccine production techniques and that commercial production could be launched immediately in the event of a pandemic.

    So far, no human fatalities or cases of humans infected with the virus have been reported in Russia, where the first outbreaks were registered in southern provinces and in Siberia in 2005. The latest outbreak occurred near Moscow in February resulting in the culling of thousands of poultry.

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