Between kludgy translation software, editors looking for a headline that `sells', and government officials reluctant to publicly confirm avian flu cases, taking media reports from places like Indonesia and Egypt at face value can be risky.
I've lost count of the number of supposed `positive' H5N1 cases reported by the media from both countries over the years, for which we never received confirmation. That doesn't mean the story was wrong, only that it was never confirmed.
Overnight the English language edition of TEMPO published what seems to be a straightforward report on a 10 year old boy who tested positive for `bird flu' (presumably H5N1).
Sunday, 22 January, 2017 | 10:36 WIB
(Continue. . .)TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - M. Sabil Nugroho (10), a resident in Sukarame district, Bandar Lampung city, Lampung province, tested positive for avian flu and had to receive an intensive care at dr H Abdul Moeloek general hospital in Lampung.
“I can confirm that a resident in Sukarame district tested positive for avian flu and is now receiving medical treatment,” said Head of Banda Lampung Health Agency dr Edwin Rusli in Bandar Lampung on Saturday.
He added the resident is still undergoing an intensive care in a special isolation room for avian flu patient in the hospital. Edwin added that agency had also given special treatment to the areas where the patient contracted the disease.
The problem being that several hours later, the (Bahasan Language) Lampung Tribune posted:
(Continue . . . )
TRIBUNLAMPUNG.CO.ID, Bandar Lampung - Department of Health (Diskes) Lampung ensure that the SN, 10-year-old boy, a resident KORPRI Jaya, Sukarame, who is currently in intensive care in isolation of hospitalization General Abdul Moeloek (RSUAM), negative bird flu virus or avian influenza.
It was submitted Subsection Diskes Lampung Asih Hendrastuti after getting confirmation from the Agency for Health Research and Development (Research) of the Ministry of Health (MoH) RI, on Sunday (22/01/2017)
"Cases of suspected bird flu in RSUAM , where a person comes from Bandar Lampung with initials SN, based on the examination of Research and Development Ministry of Health of Indonesia, the results are negative for bird flu," said Asih to the Tribune, Sunday (01/22/2017).
According Asih, currently in Lampung found two cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus. Besides SN, continue Asih, there is one white as patients from Mataram, Central Lampung, with the initials FP (21), which is expected suspect bird flu, they will be examined on Monday (23.01.2017) and the results of the examination will be sent directly to Jakarta.
Looking for a tie-breaker, I tried the Indonesian Ministry of Health website, which timed out every time I tried to access it. I'll try again later today, but their MOH hasn't always been quick to post updates in the past, so it could be a while before we hear anything.
During Indonesia's big run of cases (2006-2012) we often saw local officials confirm cases only to have district or national officials to later contradict those reports. Testing laboratories - at least back then - also had difficulty identifying the virus, with several famous cases that tested negative until deep lung tissues were retrieved post-mortem.
In recent weeks we've started to see an uptick in media reports on poultry die-offs in Indonesia (they no longer report outbreaks to the OIE), so while the reports we have contradict each other, no one should be surprised if we start seeing cases again.