Egypt's health ministry says a six-year-old boy has died of bird flu, bringing the number of Egyptians killed by the virus to 24.

The ministry Tuesday said the boy was from the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, Cairo and had been in the hospital since last month.  His death was the first bird flu death reported in Egypt this year.

The country has identified at least five new human cases of the virus this month alone, including an 18-month-old girl whose infection was announced earlier this week.

Egypt is the country most affected by bird flu outside of Asia, with 65 confirmed cases of the deadly H5N1 strain since 2006.

Globally, the virus has killed at least 257 people since 2003.

Bird flu can only be caught through contact with sick birds.  But scientists fear the virus could mutate into one that would be easily transmitted by humans, leading to a global pandemic.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.