2 May 2006

Egypt: Last Human Bird Flu Case Recovers, Say Health Authorities

Cairo — The threat posed by the potentially deadly H5N1 avian virus continues to exist in Egypt, according to the health ministry, despite the fact that the last human case has now fully recovered.

"We no longer have any human infections, which shows that the spread of the disease has come under control," said health ministry media official Sayyid al-Abbasi. "However, the threat posed by bird flu has by no means passed."

The last case of the virus - an 18-year-old girl from the Kafr al-Sheikh governorate, 125km north of Cairo, who was infected following contact with sick fowl - has been discharged from a Cairo hospital, al-Abbasi added.

The health ministry and the Supreme National Committee to Combat Bird Flu will continue to implement measures aimed at pre-empting a resurgence of the disease among humans. The committee, composed mainly of local health authorities and representatives of the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office, met on 30 April to discuss recent developments and prevention measures, said al-Abbasi.

"As long as there are still cases among poultry, we cannot let our guard down," al-Abbasi explained. He added that the recent decrease in cases of infected poultry was an indication that health authorities had acted efficiently to subdue the disease, which has killed a total of four people in Egypt.

The first cases of avian influenza among Egyptian poultry were reported in mid-February, while the first human death from the virus occurred on 17 March. According to the WHO, a total of 12 people have been infected with the virus overall. "Compared with other countries where H5N1 infections among humans have been found, the recovery rate in Egypt has been very good," said Mona Yassin, WHO technical assistant for media and communications. "However, the fact that there are still infections among birds means that the danger still exists."

Infected birds have been found in 20 of Egypt's 26 governorates, particularly in areas around the Nile Delta. Although the vast majority of sick poultry were discovered on farms, most human cases have been attributed to close contact with domestic birds, said health ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine.

An earlier ban on domestic breeding did not extend into rural areas, where authorities felt such a restriction would be unfeasible given local breeders' high level of economic dependence on domestically kept chickens, explained Shahine.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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