DHAKA, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Bird flu has spread to another district in Bangladesh, forcing authorities to cull more than 1,500 birds, officials said on Wednesday.
The H5N1 bird flu virus was reported in backyard poultry in the southern coastal district Barishal, a livestock department official said.
"After the confirmation of bird flu, authorities culled more than 1,531 chickens, ducks and birds in a one-kilometre area around the affected backyard poultry," the official said.
Suspected outbreaks were also reported at a farm in northwestern Rajshahi district and another farm in northern Rangpur district, where the virus has been confirmed in fowl previously.
"The preliminary tests showed some birds at the farm have died from bird flu, but we still don’t know whether it is the deadly H5N1 strain," the official told Reuters, referring to the farm in Rajshahi.
The H5N1 avian flu virus was first reported near the capital in March last year and has since spread mainly to northern districts, forcing authorities to kill more than 300,000 chickens.
With the latest outbreak, 72 farms in 23 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts have been infected with the deadly virus.
There are around 150,000 poultry farms in Bangladesh, with an annual turnover of $750 million, officials say.
So far there have been no cases of human infection in the densely populated country, government officials say.
Experts fear the bird flu virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people.
There have been 217 human deaths globally from the H5N1 strain and 350 confirmed cases of infection since 2003, World Health Organisation figures show. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by David Fogarty)