Djibouti Reports First Human Case of Bird Flu

The World Health Organization said Thursday that a baby in Djibouti has contracted the H5N1 virus, the country's first human case of bird flu.

"I believe the person is still alive. It's a 2-year-old girl," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told The Associated Press in Geneva. He said the girl was confirmed as H5N1-positive by the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo but could not provide any further details.

The Djibouti government confirmed the human case in the capital and said three chickens also had been infected with the virus.

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"Djibouti thus becomes the first country in the Horn of Africa to have detected a human case and bird cases of H5N1," the government said on the official Djiboutian Information Agency Web site.

It was not clear from the government statement whether the case of the chickens was related to the human case.

It also did not provide any details on the health of the girl, saying only that she was tested after showing flu symptoms on April 27.

The Health Ministry said the infection occurred despite a heightened alert, but that the government would further increase surveillance of the disease. It told citizens to keep away from any birds showing symptoms of sickness.

Djibouti is now the 10th country where a person has been infected with the deadly virus. At least 207 people have contracted the disease globally and 115 have died over the last three years, according to the U.N. health agency. Virtually all the individuals were exposed to the disease in poultry.

As of April 27, there had been no reports of H5N1 in poultry or wild fowl in Djibouti, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

Health experts fear the bird flu virus could mutate into a form easily spread among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.