The H1N1 bird flu virus has killed 17 people in Venezuela and infected another 250, local media reports said Monday, citing local authorities.

The president of the Health Institute Saludanz, Eduardo Martínez, said the person who died was a 37-year old woman who was taken to a local hospital in El Tigre, Anzoátegui state. He added that some 20 alleged cases had been reported by Sunday, eight of which were later ruled out, according to El Universal. Martínez said that the number of presumed cases is quickly escalating.

According to reports from regional authorities and private media, the number of cases would be at least 250 people in the oil-rich country of 29 million people.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) official data show 18,500 people were reported killed in the 2009/2010 H1N1 pandemic, but a study in The Lancet last year said the actual death toll may have been up to 15 times higher at more than 280,000.

The H1N1 virus is a subtype of influenza virus that affects humans and is transmitted from person to person much like the process of getting the flu, through coughing and sneezing, or by touching the mouth and nose with your hand after touching something infected with the virus.