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German women checked for bird flu

One of the German women had been on holiday in Thailand, which has had human cases of bird flu
One of the German women had been on holiday in Thailand, which has had human cases of bird flu

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HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) -- A German tropical institute is examining two women for possible bird flu infection, authorities say -- but health officials say it is unlikely they have the disease.

The ambulance service in the northern port city of Hamburg said on Monday a female holidaymaker returning to Germany from a vacation in Thailand was being checked for bird flu symptoms at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine.

"We were called with a suspected case of bird flu and brought a woman to the tropical institute," said a spokesman for the ambulance service. A woman who had accompanied her was also being examined at the institute, the spokesman said.

The head of the city's infectious diseases department, Clara Schlaich, said: "It is very unlikely that a tourist has been infected with bird flu."

The institute declined to confirm the suspected cases. Final tests on the two women for for possible bird flu are expected to be released on Tuesday, the institute said.

Shares in German national airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG fell slightly after the news.

So far 12 people have died from bird flu in an epidemic that is sweeping Asia and which scientists fear may now be transmitted from person to person. (WHO probes human bird flu link)

The epidemic has hit stock markets and share indices fell in Hong Kong and Thailand as economists said Monday the possibility of human transmission would have much more serious implications.

Ten countries in Asia have now reported cases of bird flu and millions of chickens and ducks across the region have died of the disease or been culled to prevent the virus spreading.

But only two countries -- Thailand and Vietnam -- have recorded the virus in humans.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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