JAKARTA (AP): Indonesian health officials are investigating the deaths of 22 people from an unidentified illness characterized by high fever over a two-month period in the capital Jakarta.
Samples from the patients - all of whom died days after being admitted to St. Carolus hospital - have been sent to the U.S.Naval Medical Research Unit 2 in Jakarta, but the cause of death remained a mystery, said Nyoman Kandun, a senior health ministry official.
"We have not been able to conclude if this is or is not a new emerging disease," Nyoman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "But after experiencing both bird flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) we do not want to take any chances."
Samples were also sent to the U.S.-based Centers for DiseaseControl, another health official said on condition he not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Tests there were also inconclusive.
Nyoman said the patients may have been poisoned, but for the time being the cause of death was listed as from a "high fever of unknown origin."
Most of the victims were over 40 and from middle-class residential areas near St. Carolus in central Jakarta. The hospital started reporting the deaths in October and the last death was reported on Nov. 27, he said.
Surveillance teams have visited the homes of the patients but found no additional cases and investigators also concluded that they did not get their infections from fellow patients at the hospital, Kandun said.
There are two other hospitals in the neighborhood, but they have not reported similar mysterious deaths, he said. (**)