Indonesia's bird flu death toll rises to seven

The number of people killed by bird flu in Indonesia climbed to seven Thursday, after a Hong Kong laboratory confirmed two more deaths. Two young women, aged 20 and 16, died of the disease earlier this month, said health ministry official Hariadi Wibisono.

The virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has in the last two years ravaged poultry stocks across Southeast Asia, jumping to humans and killing at least 64.

The teenager who died earlier this month is believed to have contracted the virus from sick birds in her neighborhood in the capital Jakarta, said Ilham Patu, a hospital spokesman.

The 20-year-old is believed to have been infected by birds in Purwokerto, a town in Central Java province, he said, adding that both women died days after they were hospitalized.

Most human victims have contracted the disease from sick birds, but experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between people, sparking a possible pandemic that could kill millions worldwide, reports the AP. I.L.

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