Laboratory results of 17 suspected avian flu sufferers being treated at Wahidin Sudirohusodo General Hospital in Makassar have come up negative, while two more suspected sufferers were admitted Tuesday.
Head of the South Sulawesi Health Agency, Rachmat Latief, said Friday the patients' blood and phlegm samples had been tested and found negative by the Health Ministry's research and development laboratory in Jakarta.
The agency received the results Thursday evening from the Health Ministry's Directorate General for Disease Control and Public Health, he said.
Five of the patients have been discharged from the hospital while the other 12, including three adults and nine children, were deemed not well enough to leave.
According to pediatrician Bob Wahyudi, the nine children required further treatment for breathing disorders as they were suffering from various diseases, including pneumonia and lung edema.
"The lab results were negative but the doctor's diagnosis shows the nine children still need further treatment," he said.
Three of the nine children were brothers: Salman, 5, Nurul Awaliah, 3, and Nur Fadilah, 4 months. They were diagnosed with pneumonia.
Spokesman of the hospital's bird flu team, Khalik Saleh, said the patients would only be discharged with doctor approval.
"If the doctors say they are allowed to go home, then they will go home. But if doctors demand that they get further treatment, then they will stay." he said.
"But now we are treating them for different diseases as they are not infected with the bird flu virus."
The two bird flu suspects hospitalized Tuesday are from Sudiang Raya subdistrict in Biringkanaya district. The other 17 suspects were residents of nearby areas.
The provincial health agency has sent the patients' blood and phlegm samples to the ministry's laboratory.
Rachmat warned Makassar residents to be vigilant to the threat of the virus despite the negative test results, warning the disease could pop up at any time, anywhere.
Executive director of the National Committee for Bird Flu Control and Pandemic Preparedness Bayu Krisnamurthi said the public in Makassar had been efficient in handling the threats.
"The community quickly hospitalized the patients (upon discovering that) there were dead chickens in their neighborhood, which were confirmed to be infected by the bird-flu virus," he said.
"The Makassar municipality is very cooperative so we will conduct a large bird flu pandemic simulation in March."
A number of simulations have been staged in the past, most of them in rural areas, including Jembrana in Bali and Kebumen in Central Java. Makassar will host the first major simulation in an urban area.