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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has confirmed two new human cases of bird flu, with both victims alive and being treated in a Jakarta hospital, a health ministry official said on Monday.
Confirmation came from two tests, Dr. Muhammad Nadhirin, from the ministry's national bird flu centre, told Reuters.
"The position is 74 cases, 55 of whom have died," he said.
Nadhirin said it had not yet been determined whether the two had contact with fowl, the most common way for humans to catch bird flu.
Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease but it has infected more than 250 people worldwide since late 2003, killing more than 150, according to the World Health Organisation.
Indonesia has become one of the frontlines in the battle against the disease. No country has suffered from more deaths than this huge Asian country of 17,000 islands where millions of chickens roam backyards freely.
Despite the rise in the human death toll, the Indonesian government has resisted mass culling of birds, citing the expense and impracticality in a sprawling, populous country where many people are still unperturbed by the bird flu threat.
The number of provinces where bird flu is endemic has nearly halved in the last six months, although all areas on heavily populated Java island remain affected, officials say.
Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be passed easily between people, leading to a possible human pandemic which could kill millions.
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