Concern over mystery of Bangladeshi baby with bird flu

A case of bird flu in a young child in Bangladesh has raised concern. According to the Bangladeshi health authorities a 16-month-old boy has been confirmed as the country's first human case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

While the child has recovered following treatment there is concern as to how he contracted the infection.

The boy is from a poor crowded slum area in the capital Dhaka, nowhere near a chicken farm - the case was detected during a routine check-up.

A major culling programme is now underway and authorities say it was simply a matter of time before a person was infected by the H5N1 virus.

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

The H5N1 strain of bird flu first appeared in Bangladesh just over a year ago, and has since spread alarmingly.

It has infected chickens, ducks and wild birds in more than two-thirds of country's districts, as well as neighbouring parts of India but while the impact has been massive, until now, the costs has been mainly economic, to the tune of $650m.

Two million birds have been culled and as many eggs and more than one and a half million people are now without work.

Because the domestic bird population is so large and many chicken farms are in close proximity to each other, the bird flu virus has spread rapidly.

Experts fear the H5N1 strain will eventually mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and trigger a pandemic, especially in countries such as Bangladesh where people live in close proximity to backyard poultry.

While the virus rarely infects people, there have been 382 human cases worldwide since 2003, including 241 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation - most traced to contact with infected birds.

Posted in: Disease/Infection News

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