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Indonesia probes possible human bird flu death

Indonesia is investigating a possible human case of the bird flu virus after a 37-year-old woman died showing symptoms of the disease, the health minister said Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Indonesia is investigating a possible human case of the bird flu virus after a 37-year-old woman died showing symptoms of the disease, the health minister said Sunday.

If confirmed, this would be Indonesia’s fourth human fatality from avian influenza.

In July, Indonesia became the fourth country in Asia to record human cases, when a man and his two daughters died after contracting the H5N1 strain of the virus.

Health Minister Siti Fadila Supari said blood samples from the woman, who died late Saturday, had been sent to Hong Kong for analysis. The results should be available in several days, she said.

“It is possible it may be a positive (case),” she told el-Shinta radio station.

After the deaths in July, the government pledged to step up its monitoring of chicken farms and cull infected birds to halt the spread of the disease.

The virus has swept through poultry populations in large swaths of Asia since 2003, killing tens of millions of birds — and 62 people, most of them in Vietnam and Thailand.

At present, almost all of the human fatalities contracted the virus from poultry. But experts worry it could mutate into a more deadly virus that could spread from person to person, and potentially kill millions of people around the world.