An Indonesian woman has died of bird flu on the tourist island of Bali, the first death from H5N1 there, a health ministry official said yesterday, bringing the nation's toll to 82.
The 29-year-old woman from the northwest of the island, far from the major tourist centers, died on Sunday after suffering from high fever, said Bayu Krisnamurti, head of Indonesia's national bird flu commission.
"Both are positive, [tests] from the Eikman Institute and the health ministry's lab," he told a press briefing.
In Indonesia, two tests must be returned positive before a human infection is confirmed.
The woman's five-year-old daughter died on Aug. 3 but samples were not taken from her body so it could not be confirmed that she died from the virus, Krisnamurti said.
A two-year-old girl, a neighbor of the victims, was admitted to hospital on Sunday and is also suspected of being infected, he said.
Joko Suyono, from the Bird Flu Information Center in Jakarta, said the girl had also developed bird flu symptoms, but was recovering in hospital. Test results had not come back yet.
News of the woman's death will be a blow to Bali, which is the center of Indonesia's tourism industry and has been trying to shake off the impact of several deadly bomb attacks by Islamic militants in recent years.
The woman from a village in the district of Jembrana was suffering from a high fever before dying of multiple organ failure, said Ken Wirasandi, a doctor at the Sanglah hospital in the Balinese capital Denpasar.
Suyono said there had been sick chickens around the woman's house and many had died suddenly in recent weeks.
"The villagers didn't burn the carcasses. Instead they buried them or fed them to pigs," Suyono added.
Contact with sick fowl is the most common way for humans to contract the H5N1 virus.
The woman had started showing symptoms more than a week ago, but was only admitted to hospital six days later.
She was transferred to a bigger hospital in Denpasar on Friday, where she was treated in the isolation unit, Suyono said.
He said initial investigations indicated last month the daughter had become sick after playing with chickens and died a week later.
"We were unable to retrieve any tissue samples, so we can't confirm whether she died of bird flu," Suyono added.
Bird flu is endemic in bird populations in most parts of Indonesia. In Bali, as in the rest of the country, millions of backyard chickens live in close proximity with people.
Experts fear if the virus develops the ability to pass easily between humans, millions might die in a pandemic.
Indonesia has had 82 confirmed human deaths from bird flu, the highest for any country in the world.
Not including the latest death, there have been 319 confirmed human cases and 192 deaths globally, according to WHO data.
The predominantly Hindu island in mostly Muslim Indonesia is starting to recover after suicide bombers killed 20 people in October 2005. The attacks came after more than 200 died in nightclub bombings in late 2002.
The island regularly hosts large international conventions and is due to hold an important UN climate change conference in December in which about 10,000 people are expected to attend.
According to government data, tourist arrivals in Bali rose 34 percent to 781,059 in the first half of this year from a year ago.