Indonesian woman from West Java province dies of bird flu

An Indonesian woman from West Java province died of bird flu, an official said Friday, citing local laboratory results. The 23-year-old from Bekasi, a town just east of Indonesia's capital Jakarta, died overnight after five days at the Sulianti Saroso Hospital, said Ilham Patu, a hospital official.

Blood and swab samples from the victim have been sent to a World Health Organization-accredited laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmation, he said.

If those tests come back positive, Indonesia's official human death toll from the virus will climb to 17.

Patu said the hospital was still observing another 27-year-old female patient, also from Bekasi, who tested positive at a local lab for the H5N1 virus.

"Her condition is deteriorating," he said.

Bird flu began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 140 million birds. It has also jumped to humans, killing at least 88 people in Asia and Turkey.

Almost all the deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, possibly sparking a pandemic that could kill millions. Indonesia is seen as a potential flashpoint because of its high density of poultry and people, reports the AP.

I.L.

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