Egypt's Health Ministry says an 18-month-old boy has contracted the bird flu virus - the 55th such case since the first outbreak of the disease in the country in 2006.

Egyptian media say the boy, from the central province of Minia, first showed symptoms on Friday after coming into contact with dead birds.  He was taken to a hospital on Saturday and is in stable condition.

The avian virus normally passes from bird to bird and occasionally to humans.  But experts fear a mutation of the virus could begin spreading from one human to another and start a pandemic that could kill millions.

The World Health Organization says the H5N1 strain of the virus has killed 248 people since it resurfaced in Asia in 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.