"A first test has come out as negative. Other tests are under way," a ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

 

The 32-year-old French woman was admitted to hospital in Montpellier after a two-week stay in the Tarsus region on the Mediterranean coast, which, the ministry said, is not known to have be been affected by the disease. The woman had been travelling on her own.

 

Turkey has reported at least four deaths from the H5N1 strain of bird flu this month. The epicentre of Turkey's outbreak is in the east, near Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia.

 

The woman, who had seen dead birds while travelling in the country, showed symptoms of flu combined with breathing difficulties and was admitted to hospital on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.

 

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed at least 80 people since late 2003. Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds, but there are fears that it could mutate into a form that can pass easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic.

 

The French government tightened its own protection measures this month against a possible outbreak of the virus. The number of departments where poultry must be kept inside has been raised from 26 to 58.