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Page last updated at 19:08 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 20:08 UK

Bangladesh toddler 'has bird flu'

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Duck infected with bird flu
The authorities have embarked on a major culling programme

The Bangladeshi health ministry says that a 16-month-old boy has been confirmed as the country's first human case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

It said that the boy, who lives in a slum in the capital Dhaka, had recovered after treatment.

The government has always seen it as simply a matter of time before a person here was infected by the H5N1 virus.

But still, the troubling thing is that the unnamed youngster was infected in the first place.

Alarming rate

The authorities say that he does not live on, or near a chicken farm, but in one of the capital's crowded and unhygienic slums.

The health ministry says it will step up its monitoring of such places.

After being first discovered in Bangladesh just over a year ago, bird flu has spread at an alarming rate - infecting chickens, ducks and wild birds in more than two-thirds of country's districts, as well as neighbouring parts of India.

The impact has been massive, but until now, largely economic.

According to government figures more than a million birds have been culled, $60m lost, and more than one and a half million people put out of work.

Bird flu has been able to spread so quickly simply because there are so many people, and so many chicken farms squeezed together into this relatively small country.

Some farmers complain that the government response has been hindered by a lack of resources and corruption.

It says it has done all it can - and that there is no reason for people to be alarmed.


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