- The Cairo Ministry of Health this morning confirmed that a second person had died from bird flue in Egypt. The 30-year-old woman had died yesterday in a hospital in the Qaliubia governorate just north of Cairo. There is a total of five confirmed cases of humans infected with bird flu in Egypt, which also are the only known cases in Africa so far.
Egyptian authorities have insisted they are in full control of the situation ever since bird flu first was detected in the country in mid-February. First, the epidemic spread among poultry from one district to another, but Egyptian health authorities met the crisis with national committee to combat the disease headed by the Minister of Health and with wide-ranging powers. Culling, quarantines and information campaigns seemed to have a positive effect on stopping the spread of the disease.
In mid-March, however, the first cases of human infections were reported. People only get infected from the feared avian disease if in very close contact with infected poultry or eating chicken or eggs that are not properly heated (more than 70 degrees Celsius). Authorities had hoped to avoid such infections by a massive information campaign regarding hygiene and cooking.
By now, a total of five Egyptians have caught the avian flu, which has a high fatality rate but so far does not spread from human to human. On 17 March, the first person died of bird flu in Egypt. Since then, two of the remaining four persons have fully recovered from the disease and are "in stable condition", according to the Cairo Ministry of Health.
Yesterday's death of a relatively young woman in a Qaliubia hospital came as a surprise to health authorities - she was one of the persons being treated for the disease for a longer time and medics thought her situation had stabilised. Bird flu deaths further are most normal among the elderly and children, who have limited immunity in general.
According to the Egyptian Ministry's spokesperson, it is likely that the 30-year-old had died because she sought medical aid too late. The young woman had been in close contact to infected poultry for a longer time and had not sought help until ten days after the first symptoms had occurred.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities still are registering new cases of bird flu among poultry in most of the 19 governorates where the animal disease has been detected - the area spanning from Alexandria ant the Mediterranean coast to Aswan at the Sudanese border. The Ministry however holds that new infections are constantly lowering, indicating that the situation id under control. No new human cases have been recorded for over one week.
Another good sign is that there have been no recorded cases of bird flu among wild birds - all cases, new and old, are among domestic birds and traceable from one case to another. Minister of the Environment, Majed George, today said that the many samples taken from dead migrant birds - a total of 7,645 - showed no sign of bird flu, according to new laboratory results.
This means that the spread of the disease should no speed up and that the outbreak may be held within the borders of Egypt. Further, environmentalists may still rest assure that Egypt's rich wetlands stay intact as breeding spots for the many migratory birds passing through the North African country. Most samples were taken from nature reserves, which today were declared healthy.
The impact of bird flu in Egypt - compared to Asian countries where the disease has proven fatal - is still relatively small. While two persons have died of the disease in Egypt, the total number of confirmed human deaths of avian flu is 115, according to statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The outbreak so far has been worst in Viet Nam (42 deaths), followed by Indonesia (22), Thailand (14) and China (11). In the Middle East region, Azerbaijan (5 deaths) and Turkey (4) have been most affected.
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