H5N1 Update
First human case of bird flu in Cairo
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In Egypt the number of people to test positive for the bird flu virus – H5N1 – has risen to 34, 14 of whom have died, (as of 16 April 2007), Egyptian health officials confirmed.

The latest four cases include:

- A 15-year-old girl from Shubra district in Cairo developed symptoms on 30 March. She was hospitalised on 5 April and died on 10 April. Hers is the first confirmed human infection of H5N1 in the capital, Cairo.

- A 4-year-old boy from Qena in the Nile Valley developed bird flu symptoms on 26 March and was hospitalised three days later. He is brother to a 6-year-old girl who was recently infected.

- A 7-year-old boy from Sohag, 470km south of Cairo, became ill on 26 March and was hospitalised three days later.

- A 4-year-old girl from Qalubiea became ill on 29 March and was hospitalised the following day.

All of the patients were in a stable and improving condition (as of 4 April), Dr Amr Kandeel, director of the Communicable Disease Control Department at the health ministry, told IRIN News.

The first case of H5N1 infection in humans in Egypt was registered in March 2006. The country accounts for the largest number avian flu cases infecting humans outside Asia, where most cases have been reported.

Incidences of avian flu in humans are typically treated in Egypt with the antiviral drug Tamiflu. Health officials stress that the treatment’s success is highest if the patient reports the illness as soon as symptoms emerge.

Egypt launched a major campaign to vaccinate ‘backyard birds’, the most common route of transmission of avian flu from animals to humans, earlier this year, along with increased efforts to make the public aware of the risks of keeping poultry in their homes. Although cases continue to be reported, the campaign appears to be limiting fatalities. “Our cure rate is improving.

All of these [recent] cases came to hospital within 48 hours [of noticing symptoms], so we can say that public awareness is improving,” said Dr Kandeel. Meanwhile, in March, the Egyptian Government announced they were working on new legislation that would restrict the movement of live poultry.

The new law would involve the creation of four zones with 10-15km buffers between them. In an effort to contain any potential spread of the virus, no-one will be allowed to move birds or chicks between the zones.

“The legislation has already been presented to Parliament for approval. It puts restrictions on the trade of live poultry and imposes fines on those who violate it by moving birds from one city to another,” Dr Nasr al-Sayyed, First Undersecretary for the Preventive Sector at the Ministry of Health, said according to a 13 March IRIN News report.

The report said the legislation was expected to be in place in a few weeks. Al-Sayyed said that the legislation will aim to change the mentality of buying live poultry in Egypt and encourage the consumption of frozen birds. “We are targeting people who live in urban areas because we understand the difficulty of changing the practices of the rural community. It is difficult to convince people living in villages to give up breeding birds at home and to buy frozen birds instead,” he said.

Afghanistan Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, health ministry officials reported several new cases of bird flu in March in wild birds in the capital Kabul and the southern province of Kandahar.

More than 20 cases have been confirmed in the country since February, many in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. Officials in Kabul say that insecurity is impeding their efforts to curb the spread of the virus, particularly in Shah Wali Kot district, where insurgents have repeatedly attacked government employees, according to an IRIN News report.

The WHO in Afghanistan has called on people in Kabul, Nangarhar and Kunar provinces to avoid live bird markets. Saudi Arabia And in Saudi Arabia Hamad Al-Manie, the Minister of Health, said (15 April) that the small number of bird flu cases among migratory birds reported in March had been totally eliminated. “It has been totally eliminated.

It concerned only a small number of migratory birds that were crossing the kingdom’s borders,” he told Arab News. Kuwait The government culled some 1.7 million birds following outbreak of H5N1 among poultry in late February and March. It is also recently reported that five falcons out of some 3,000 that were tested were confirmed to have H5N1.

                                  
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