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Bird flu death in Bali

13th August 2007

A 29 year-old woman has died of bird flu on the popular tourist destination of Bali, health officials said.

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Her five-year-old daughter has also died recently, though it was unclear if the child, who used to play with chickens, had also contracted the H5N1 virus.

The woman, who came from the western part of the Hindu island, died in hospital Sunday after suffering a high fever and multiple organ failure, according to a doctor at the hospital in the island's capital, Denpasar.

From a village in the district of Jembrana, 105 km (65 miles) from Denpasar, the woman had lived in a house with sick and dying chickens in the back yard for several weeks. She only presented for medical help after several days of symptoms, and was then transferred to an isolation unit in the Balinese capital.

Officials said there had been sick chickens around the woman's house and many had died suddenly in recent weeks.

The health ministry's bird blu centre said test results were also pending on a two-year-old girl from the same neighbourhood who had also become ill and who was now recovering in hospital.

Bali's tourist industry was dealt a severe blow following several deadly bomb attacks in recent years, and the news of bird flu in the vicinity is unlikely to help.

Officials said they had already put in place measures to contain the outbreak, including culling poultry and testing of humans.

Bayu Krishnamurthi told a news conference the government was working very hard to prevent the spread of the virus to nearby villages, although he admitted there were weaknesses in the island's surveillance and response systems.

Experts say the deadly H5N1 virus has been endemic in Balinese poultry since 2003, when it began to spread across the Asia Pacific region.

Ngurah Mahardhika, a scientist on an expert panel of the country's bird flu commission, said experts had been expecting some cases in humans.

Officials said the carcasses of the dead chickens had not been burned according to government guidelines, but buried or fed to other animals.

So far, humans who have been infected with H5N1 have had some contact with sick poultry. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans and spark a pandemic, killing millions globally.

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