18 January 2007

Egypt: 19th Case of Bird Flu Detected

Cairo — Officials in Egypt's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that a new case of the H5N1 'bird-flu' virus has been detected in the Upper Egypt town of Beni Suef, bringing the total number of infections in the country since March 2006 to 19.

A 27-year-old woman was admitted to hospital on 11 January, after having given birth on 2 January. The woman initially denied contact with poultry, leading to a delay in her diagnosis, health officials said.

"Three live ducks and two pigeons were found at her home, and we learned that four chickens had died nearby 10 days previously," said WHO spokesman Hassan el-Bushra.

The H5N1 virus was first detected among humans in Egypt in March 2006, and a month earlier among birds. The majority of infections and all of the 10 deaths to date have been among people who reared birds domestically as opposed to on farms.

The area around her home has been tested for the virus, although no traces have yet been found. Ministry of Health officials and WHO personnel have carried out a bird flu awareness campaign since the beginning of the outbreak, urging Egyptians not to keep poultry in their homes.

With the deaths to date, officials have admitted that the programme is not always successful. Three members of the same family died at the end of December, in Gharbiyaa governate, north of Cairo.

In a separate development, the Ministry of Health and WHO are soon expected to release a report on a new strain of H5N1, which was reported to be resistant to Oseltamvir, better known as Tamiflu, the drug most commonly used to treat the virus.

"A mutation has been identified in the last case, and this is a serious development. We are waiting to finalise the report so that we can provide the right information," el-Bushra told IRIN. The report was due to be released later Thursday.

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

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