The H1N1 flu death toll in the country has increased to five following the death of a 21-year-old man in Bandung last week, the Health Ministry confirmed Monday.
The director general of disease control and environmental health at the ministry, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, told The Jakarta Post that the man had died last week in a hospital in West Java.
The Tempointeraktif.com news portal previously reported that a man with respiratory distress, blood circulation problems and anxiety had been admitted to the Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung, West Java, on Tuesday. He died the same day after being treated in an isolated room for 10 hours.
"A laboratory test result confirmed the man tested positive for H1N1 flu," Tjandra said.
Fifty-seven new cases of H1N1 flu were recorded as of Sunday, taking the country's total number of confirmed cases to 1,005 in 24 provinces, the ministry's website says.
Despite the rising number and the World Health Organization's (WHO) warning that an "explosion" of cases is due in the coming months, the ministry maintains that the preventive measures it has been taking since the early days the virus hit the country were still adequate for curbing the spread of the disease.
"The WHO has been saying that since I don't know when. We are still taking the usual steps... Our equipment is adequate," he added.
Since the country's first known cases of H1N1 in June, the Health Ministry has been running an eight-step program to contain the spread of the new flu strain.
The program includes employing thermal scanners in health posts at ports to monitor people coming into Indonesia from overseas, improving the skills of medical workers in 100 hospitals in the country and reinforcing communication, information and education activities by giving out posters on how to contain the spread of H1N1 flu.
Ribka Tjiptaning Proletariyati, head of House Commission IX overseeing health and manpower issues, said the ministry should have focused on improving people's endurance instead of battling to cure one patient after another.
"If people have weak immunity, they could easily contract any kind of disease, not just H1N1 flu. Why make this particular disease such a big deal anyway? The H1N1 flu is no more dangerous than the regular flu. The government should focus on diseases like HIV, dengue or tuberculosis; those diseases take more lives than H1N1 flu."
With the surging number of cases worldwide, countries have started to develop an H1N1 vaccine.
The ministry, Tjandra said, was still waiting for confirmation on the availability of the vaccine.
"We have made a list of those that we will prioritize for vaccination; medical workers and sick people are on the top of our list."
Meanwhile, Minister Siti Fadilah Supari has earmarked anti-viral drug Tamiflu for those with severe health conditions.
"Just give regular influenza drugs to those with mild symptoms."
Other countries, she added, had imposed such a policy because the disease had been known to not have a severe effect on one's health.
The WHO previously stated that the H1N1 flu had a low mortality rate of 0.4 percent. (adh)