DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh reported its first confirmed case of human bird flu on Thursday, but said the 16-month-old victim had now recovered from the virus.
The baby boy from a Dhaka slum was diagnosed with the H5N1 strain of the disease in January, but this was only confirmed by a US laboratory this week, the government said.
"There is no reason to panic. The child contracted the H5N1 bird flu virus in January but we only got confirmation from the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control) on Wednesday it was a human bird flu case," said senior government official Saluddin Khan.
Earlier, a health ministry official had said the child was still in hospital.
But Khan, who works for the livestock ministry and is coordinating Bangladesh's battle against bird flu, said the boy "has now made a complete recovery."
Khan said Bangladesh's fight against the virus was "very much under control."
"We're destroying the birds and eggs as soon as we have any report of bird flu at any farm in the country," he said.
Bird flu has killed over 240 people worldwide since late 2003 and experts fear it could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human.
Bangladesh has set up isolation units at all public hospitals across the country, and officials said the government had taken adequate safety measures to tackle any new human cases of bird flu.
"Right now everything is under control. We have trained doctors and readied hospitals to tackle any new detection," said Mahmudur Rahman, who heads Bangladesh's Institute of Epidemiology and Disease Control and Research.
"We successfully tackled the disease when it spread to most parts of the country in January and February. In the last 40 days there has been only one outbreak of the H5N1 virus in a farm in northern Bangladesh," added Khan.
Bangladesh, which has a population of 140 million, is the world's most densely populated country with nearly 1,000 people per square kilometre (2,600 per square mile).
It was first hit by bird flu in February 2007 near Dhaka, but the disease became dormant.
It made a forceful comeback in January when a clutch of new districts were hit. At the outbreak's peak, some 50 of the country's 64 districts were affected by bird flu, officials said.
More than a million birds were slaughtered, but the outbreaks began to subside in March as temperatures started soaring, killing the virus, officials said.
Bangladesh's poultry industry is one of the world's largest, producing 220 million chickens and 37 million ducks annually.
Industry officials said the bird flu outbreak at its peak this year led to closure of 40 percent of the nation's poultry farms and left half a million workers jobless.
Earlier this year, one health official told AFP there was "a huge lack of awareness in the countryside" about disposing of poultry hit by bird flu and people were "throwing away dead chickens in open fields, canals and ponds."
Also earlier this year, giant neighbour India suffered its third and worst outbreak of the virus among poultry in West Bengal state which borders Bangladesh.
No human cases of bird flu have been reported in India, which has also carried out massive poultry slaughters.
The two nations recently agreed to pool information on bird flu after sparring over the source of the deadly disease.
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