Two pregnant women have died after they contracted a disease spread through a parrot's infected feces, health ministry officials said, in what is likely to be the first such cases in Japan.

According to a research team at the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, two maternal deaths related to the disease were found in a probe it conducted in fiscal 2016.

The ministry and the national research agency would not say when the two women died.

Animal-to-human transmission of the disease occurs if a person inhales a type of bacteria called Chlamydia psittaci that can be found in the feces of pet birds such as parrots.

Following an incubation period of one to two weeks, infected patients develop flu-like symptoms, such as high fever and a cough.

In Japan, a few dozen infections are reported annually, according to the ministry, and patients can die if symptoms become severe.

Pregnant women "should avoid unnecessary contact with pet birds, as their resistance (to diseases) are undermined during pregnancy," said Itaru Yanagihara, a department head at the research institute of Osaka Women's and Children's Hospital.