A 9-year-old boy died from bird flu just hours after being admitted to a hospital in Indonesia, a senior Health Ministry official said Monday.

The death brought to 51 the number of confirmed fatalities from bird flu in Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the virus.

The boy died Friday in a hospital in the capital, Jakarta, nine days after he first showed symptoms of the virus, the ministry official Nyoman Kandun said.

"By the time he arrived at hospital, it was too late," said Kandun, adding he died two hours after being admitted.

The boy had recent contact with chickens infected with theH5N1 strain of bird flu, the health official said. The strain has killed at least 144 people worldwide since it started ravaging poultry stocks in Asia three years ago, according to the World Health Organization.

Most human deaths have been traced to contact with sick birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a more transmissible form, potentially causing a deadly global pandemic.

Indonesia, a sprawling island nation of more than 220 million people, has attracted international criticism earlier this year for not doing enough to stamp out the virus in its vast poultry stocks.


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