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HEALTH

Bird flu tests for Indonesia death

Mass culling of birds continues in India

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(CNN) -- Indonesia says a woman has died of bird flu, raising the number of human bird flu deaths in that country to nine this year alone.

Indonesian health official Hariadi Wibisono said Wednesday that authorities believe the woman was in contact with chickens before she became ill, and said samples have been sent to the World Health Organization for confirmation of the H5N1 virus.

Nineteen people have died of bird flu in Indonesia since last year, according to WHO statistics. Of 170 confirmed cases worldwide, 92 people have died.

Health officials across the globe fear a pandemic could break out as the virus learns to mutate and adapt.

Currently, most of the confirmed human cases have been spread from birds and not from human-to-human contact.

In Thailand, officials have imposed a ban on poultry imports from European countries hit by bird flu, a senior livestock official said Wednesday.

The official, Nirandorn Auengtrakulsuk, told CNN that the ban, which was initiated Monday, is to last 90 days. Thailand will lift the ban earlier if the affected countries can control the virus within their borders, he said, but suggested that such an outcome is unlikely.

The ban applies to poultry from Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia. Though Thailand is a leading exporter of chicken products, Thai farmers import breeder chickens and ducks from Europe.

Nirandorn said the country is considering extending the import ban to India as a protective measure.

Thailand, which was among the first countries hit by bird flu in early 2004, has had 22 human cases, 14 of them fatal. More than 60 million poultry have been culled and, for the moment, the disease has been contained, officials say.

On Sunday, Indian agricultural authorities confirmed the country's first outbreak of the disease in poultry -- in several commercial farms in the western state of Maharashtra.

Mass culling continued Wednesday, with more than 500,000 chickens killed so far.

Tuesday, Indian officials widened the culling zone to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and began holding meetings with residents of remote towns and small villages in the region, to educate them about the virus and what they can do to stop its spread.

So far, only three cases of bird flu have been confirmed among chickens in India. No human cases have been found, officials said, although test results are pending on at least 12 people with flu-like symptoms.

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