Four die of bird flu in Libya: Minister

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) - Four people have died of bird flu in Libya in recent days, the health minister of the country's internationally recognised government said on Saturday.

Rida al-Awkali said a fifth person suspected of having contracted the virus is currently in hospital in the far eastern city of Tobruk.

Three of the victims died in the capital Tripoli, while the fourth died in Tobruk, he added, without saying which strain of the disease they caught.

Tobruk is across the border from Egypt where at least eight people have died of bird flu this year, according to health authorities in Cairo.

Awkali said that he will visit Tobruk on Sunday and then travel on to Egypt to meet experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which closely monitors the various strains of avian influenza.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 400 people, mainly in South-east Asia, since first appearing in 2003.

Another strain, H7N9, has claimed more than 170 lives since emerging in 2013.

Libya's first case of bird flu was recorded at a Tobruk poultry farm in March, but no people were infected.

Again, officials did not reveal the strain of the virus.

Awkali said that the WHO would be sending a delegation to Libya within 48 hours.