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JAKARTA, Sept 24 (AFP) - Patients with bird flu symptoms in the Indonesian capital were improving while four more people were hospitalised after displaying symptoms of the virus, doctors said Saturday.
"Generally their conditions are improving, except for one person. Unless further tests show otherwise, at least four of them can be discharged today," hospital deputy director Sardikin Giri Putro told AFP.
Twenty-one people, including the four new patients admitted on Friday and Saturday, were being treated at the Sulianti Saroso infectious diseases hospital in Jakarta.
Sulianti Saroso is one of 44 hospitals nationwide that have been designated to treat bird flu patients as Indonesia steps up the fight against the virus following the death of a man and his two young daughters in July.
So far four people have been confirmed to have died from avian influenza in Indonesia.
Sardikin said two people who visited a Jakarta zoo whose birds were infected with the virus were admitted to the hospital on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Another two patients, including a one-year-old girl, were admitted to the same hospital later Saturday, the Detikcom news website said.
The H5N1 bird flu strain has killed 63 people in Southeast Asia since 2003, the majority of them in Vietnam. Indonesia's health ministry confirmed that the country's four victims died from H5N1.
On Wednesday a five-year-old girl died in Sulianti Saroso hospital showing symptoms of bird flu but authorities have yet to confirm bird flu as the cause of death pending the completion of lab tests in Hong Kong.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) biggest fear is that H5N1 may mutate, acquiring genes from the human influenza virus that would make it highly infectious and lethal to millions in a global pandemic.
But the WHO in Geneva has urged calm, saying investigations in Indonesia had produced no evidence that H5N1 was spreading easily from person to person.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday urged the culling of birds in infected areas but warned against overstating the threat.
Foreign donors on Friday promised to help Indonesia in its battle against bird flu after the UN warned of a worrying situation and urged the country to improve its virus control policies.
In addition to the four Indonesian deaths, a boy named Firdaus had also tested positive for bird flu, health officials said.
About 100 people who visited the Jakarta zoo have come to the Sulianti Saroso hospital for health checks over the past few days, the Jakarta Post said.
Authorities closed the zoo for 21 days starting Monday after tests showed that most exotic birds there were infected with bird flu.
The bird flu outbreak is expected to hit tourism worse than terrorism does, said Yanti Sukamdani, chairwoman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association.
"Tourists are likely more afraid of ... the outbreak of a disease than a terror attack," she was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.
The government is seeking to attract six million foreign tourists this year, but the number of foreign arrivals has so far only reached 2.45 million. tn/ag
Health-Indonesia-flu COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.