CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian woman died on Monday of H5N1 bird flu after coming into contact with infected birds, the second death from the disease this year, a health ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Egypt has identified seven cases of the virus in people this year, including the two who died, Hosam Abdel Gaffar said.

In the latest case, the woman was 19 and died at a hospital in the southern region of Assiut, he said.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), from 2003 through until October 2, 2014, there have been 668 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection officially reported from 16 countries. Of these cases, 393 have died.

Egypt's health ministry had announced in an earlier statement the discovery of the disease in a 30-year-old woman in the southern area of Minya, bringing to seven the number of confirmed Egyptian cases of the disease.

Another of the victims was a three-year-old who had been exposed to infected birds and was doing well, it said.

The WHO warns that whenever bird flu viruses

are circulating in poultry, there is a risk of sporadic infections or small clusters of human cases -- especially in

people exposed to infected birds or contaminated environments.

Human cases of H5N1 are rare, however, and the virus does not currently appear to transmit easily from person to person.

Egypt's H5N1 cases have largely been found in impoverished rural areas in the south of the country, where villagers, particularly women, tend to keep and slaughter poultry in the home.

 

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London, writing by Lin Noueihed.)