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DHAKA, March 9 (Reuters) - Bird flu has spread to another district in Bangladesh despite massive culling by authorities to control the outbreak, officials said on Sunday, bringing the number of affected districts to 47 out of 64.
The new case of the avian influenza was found in Brahmanbaria, in the east of the capital Dhaka, livestock officials said. They added that the spread of bird flu had slowed in the previously affected areas in recent weeks.
Nearly 1.25 million birds have been culled since the virus was first detected in March 2007, threatening the impoverished country's growing poultry sector.
Industry officials said bird flu had caused losses of about 45 billion taka ($650 million) to the poultry sector, which accounts for 1.6 percent of gross domestic product.
Around five million of the country's more than 140 million people are directly or indirectly involved in poultry farming, of whom officials estimate more than 1.5 million have now become jobless.
No human bird flu cases have been reported in Bangladesh, a densely populated nation where poultry is commonly kept by households.
Experts fear the H5N1 strain could mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic, especially in countries such as Bangladesh where people live in close proximity to backyard poultry.
Eating well-cooked meat is safe but experts have warned about handling H5N1-tainted birds or meat without protection. Humans usually contract the virus only after close contact with infected birds.
The virus has killed more than 230 people worldwide since 2003. (Reporting by Ruma Paul)