Researchers in Indonesia, the country worst hit by bird flu, have found preliminary evidence which suggests humans could be more susceptible to infection, an official warned Wednesday.
The head of Indonesia's national committee for bird flu control, Bayu Krisnamurthi, also told reporters the human fatality rate had increased in the year to May to 86.4 percent, as compared with 74.5 percent the previous year.
Krisnamurthi was speaking at a press conference marking the second anniversary of the appearance of bird flu in humans in Indonesia.
Since then, the country has recorded 99 human infections, 79 of them fatal.
"We found a new indication that the bird flu virus is transmitted easily (to humans) now.
Previously a high intensity (of contact) with the virus was needed to enable contamination of the victims," he said.
He did however caution that more research was needed to explain the new phenomenon.
Bird flu is widespread among fowl in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation where poultry and humans often live in close proximity.
Contact with infected birds is the most common form of transmission of the deadly virus to humans, experts say.
Krisnamurthi cited a lack of public awareness as being among the main factors contributing to the spread of the virus, which has now reached all but two of Indonesia's 33 provinces.
"About 97 percent of Indonesian people already know of the presence of the disease but only about 15 percent are aware that the disease could threaten their life," he said.
The latest bird flu victim in Indonesia was a teenage girl who died last week.