An Indian sailor who died in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda may have been infected with bird flu, the Lithuanian health ministry said.

"A member of the crew of the ship M.V. Ocean Wind, Indian citizen Shaikh Rafikque, died in Klaipeda Monday. The suspected cause of death is bird flu," a statement from the ministry said.

If avian flu is confirmed as the cause of death, it would be the first human case of the disease in the European Union.

"Rafikque, who was the ship's cook, fell ill on February 4, according to reports from the crew," the ministry said.

"He died in a medical emergency vehicle on Monday," it said in a statement.

The Liberian-flagged Ocean Wing came to Lithuania from Germany on January 17 to undergo repairs, the health ministry said.

Although the health ministry said earlier that a preliminary autopsy would be conducted in the port on Lithuania's western Baltic coastline, it later said the ship's captain, also Indian, has "not given permission for an autopsy, on religious grounds."

Doctor's at Klaipeda morgue, where the body of the 62-year-old sailor was being held, told AFP that no autopsy has been ordered or carried out.

Kazimieras Lukauskas, head of Lithuania's state veterinary and food service, said that raw poultry was among foods that were loaded onto the ship in Germany, but played down the possibility that it was the cause of the sailor's death.

"We do not think that poultry used for food on the ship could be the cause of death" Lukauskas said.

A special emergency team has been sent to Klaipeda to disinfect the ship, which had 30 crew -- 29 Indians and one Ukrainian -- on board, he said.

"Our emergency plan provides for crew members to undergo medical examinations," Lukauskas said.