An Egyptian toddler has contracted bird flu, the 61th recorded case since the first outbreak of the disease in the country in 2006, state-news agency MENA reported on Wednesday.

The two-year-old was taken to hospital with a fever on Monday in Beheira governate, health ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahin said, quoted by MENA. He had been exposed to dead fowl thought to have been infected with the virus.

Twenty-three people have died of bird flu in Egypt. Most of the victims have been young girls or women, who are generally in charge of looking after poultry in rural areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) called last month for an investigation into why many of the victims have been young children.

Egypt hosted an international conference on bird flu in October, when Washington pledged an additional 320 million dollars to the fight against the disease amid fears it may yet escalate into a global pandemic.