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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 15:13 GMT
Indonesian girl dies of bird flu
Chicken farm near Jakarta, Jan 2006
Indonesians are increasingly concerned about bird flu
An Indonesian girl has become the latest person to die of bird flu, according to officials there.

If local tests are confirmed by the World Health Organization, she will be the 13th person to die of the disease in Indonesia.

The disease has killed at least 76 people in East Asia since its resurgence in December 2003.

Millions of chickens and ducks have died of the disease, or been culled to prevent its spread.

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Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between humans, possibly sparking a pandemic.

The 13-year-old Indonesian girl died on Saturday in Indraymayu, on the island of Java, according to health ministry official Hariadi Wibisono.

He said local tests showed she had the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, although the findings have yet to be confirmed by a WHO laboratory in Hong Kong.

Two members of the girl's family are ill and awaiting tests to determine whether they have bird flu.

New Year preparations

Hong Kong itself has tight measures to lessen the risk of a bird flu outbreak.

The territory has limited the number of live chickens imported from mainland China to 30,000, and all the birds have to be vaccinated.

But the authorities have recently agreed to raise the quota in the run up to the Lunar New Year festival, when Chinese traditionally eat chicken.

It will go up to 50,000 and then 70,000 birds a day on the last two days before the New Year.

But scientists warn that the more chickens are packed densely into crates and transported around Asia, the more chance there is of any outbreak of bird flu being spread.

They are urging people to be careful not to eat what appears to be sick or dying poultry.

Eating well-cooked chicken is not dangerous at all, but handling or preparing infected birds can put people at risk.


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