February 3, 2008 / 11:05 AM / in 11 years

Bird flu spreads in Bangladesh, port city on alert

DHAKA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Bird flu has spread to three more districts of Bangladesh, the livestock department said on Sunday, taking the number of affected districts to more than half of the country’s 64 districts.

The latest outbreaks were reported in southwestern Gopalganj, northeastern Sylhet and northern Mymensingh district, officials said.

The port city of Chittagong was put on high alert after some dead crows tested positive for the H5N1 virus, local officials said.

Officials said the government was taking measures to contain the spread of the disease, but ignorance among millions of farmers across the impoverished country remained a stumbling block.

Despite a government drive to burn or buy the dead birds, many farmers and backyard poultry breeders continue to ignore warnings, officials said.

"More than 200,000 volunteers are visiting rural households and educating people to report dead or sick birds, safe disposal of poultry waste and other safe health practices," said Mushtaque Ahmed, senior scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.

Touching or eating sick poultry is the common way to become infected by the bird flu virus that has killed more than 220 people globally since late 2003.

So far no human infection has been reported in Bangladesh, though some 4 million people are involved in poultry farming across the country.

The neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal has put 26 people in isolation with bird flu symptoms after the most serious outbreak of the disease in poultry.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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