February 16, 2008 / 3:46 PM / 12 years ago

Bangladesh culls more bird flu infected chickens

DHAKA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Veterinary workers have started culling some 150,000 chickens infected with bird flu in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Saturday, officials said

"The culling of a huge number of chickens has just started and it may take until Sunday afternoon to complete the task," a Livestock Department official told Reuters.

Officials said bird flu has spread to 42 out of 64 districts since it was first detected in the Dhaka region last March.

The H5N1 virus was quickly brought under control through aggressive measures, including culling, before re-emerging in January.

The government has raised compensation for poultry farmers to encourage the farmers to report and kill sick birds to help to stamp out the outbreak.

As of Friday more than 600,000 birds have been culled in Bangladesh since March 2007,

No human infections have been reported so far but the virus has spread across nearly two thirds of the country of more than 140 million people.

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 poultry.

Humans usually contract the virus only after close contact with infected birds, with the virus killing nearly two thirds of the people it infects.

The disease has killed more than 220 people worldwide since 2003. (Reporting by Nizam Ahmed)

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