Indonesia: woman dies showing bird flu symptoms

An Indonesian women died of suspected bird flu, a hospital spokesman said Sunday, ahead of a trip by a top EU health official to discuss how to boost the country's fight against the virus.

Markos Kyprianou, the union's commissioner for health and consumer protection, will arrive in Jakarta for a two-day visit Monday focused on strengthening Indonesia's surveillance and control capabilities, according to an EU statement.

Indonesia is Kyprianou's final stop in a tour of Southeast Asia, which has been hard hit by bird flu. The virus is endemic in chicken flocks in the region and has killed at least 64 people, most of them in Vietnam.

Five people are confirmed to have died from the disease in Indonesia this year.

The latest suspect case a 20-year-old women died in Jakarta's infectious diseases hospital late Saturday, said spokesman Dr. Ilham Patu.

The victim lived close to a flock of backyard chickens that died suddenly and had a high fever and breathing difficulties when she died, he said, adding that tests would be carried out on Monday to confirm the initial diagnosis.

Blood and swab samples would also be sent to a Hong Kong laboratory for testing, he said.

Most of the people in Asia infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu have had contact with sick birds. International health experts fear that if the virus mutates into a form that is easily transmissible between people, it could spark a pandemic, possibly killing millions.

Indonesia has resisted calls to slaughter healthy birds in infected areas a practice recommended by the United Nations because of the cost of compensating farmers and the millions of people who keep one or two birds in their backyards, AP reports. P.T.

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