CAIRO - An 18-year-old Egyptian girl died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the fourth fatal case in the country, a health official announced.

"It was an 18-year-old woman from the Menufiya governorate. She was already in bad heath when she arrived to hospital," said Nasser Kamel, a spokesman for the Supreme National Committee to Combat Bird Flu.

Egypt announced on Tuesday that the teenager from the northern governorate of Menufiya had been taken to hospital four days earlier. She was the 12th Egyptian infected by the pathogenic virus.

The woman is said to have contracted the disease after handling infected poultry.

Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, is on a major route for migratory birds and is the hardest-hit non-Asian country since the bird flu epidemic broke out in 2003.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu, its most aggressive form, has killed more than 100 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It was first detected in birds in Egypt in February. The first human case was reported on March 18.

Of the 12 Egyptians infected over the past weeks, four have died, five have recovered and three are receiving treatment, health officials said.

According to health officials, although no human-to-human transmission has yet been reported in Egypt, the risk of contamination from infected birds remains as high because public awareness is low.

In a bid to thwart the virus, Egypt has slapped a ban on domestic poultry farms and more than 10 million birds are believed to have been slaughtered.

The world famous Cairo Zoo has also been shut down since February because birds there had tested positive for the deadly flu.

While the compliance of larger farms with anti-bird flu measures can be more easily controlled, some Egyptians in mainly rural areas have been reluctant to give up their domestic rearings.

An Egyptian worker in Jordan was also identified on March 31 as having been infected by the deadly virus, the Hashemite kingdom's first human case. He was treated for the illness and pronounced cured on Monday.