Health department officials wearing protective gear throw disinfectant over culled birds before burying them in a pit at a poultry farm in Keranga village in Khurda district. Photo: AP

Jakarta, Indonesia -

The Health Ministry says bird flu has killed a 37-year-old man in central Indonesia, marking the country's ninth fatality this year.

The Ministry's website said on Monday that the man died on July 30 in Yogyakarta province after being hospitalised for five days.

It confirmed that the man who lived near a chicken slaughterhouse was infected with the H5N1 virus after apparently coming into contact with sick birds.

The virus, which began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003, remains entrenched in Indonesia. Experts fear it could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic. But most human cases have been linked to contact with sick birds.

The World Health Organisation says 359 people have died from it worldwide. Indonesia remains the hardest-hit country, accounting for 159 deaths. - Sapa-AP