EGYPT: Second human death from bird flu reported
Second fatal human case of bird flu confirmed in Egypt
CAIRO, 28 March 2006 (IRIN) - Health ministry authorities have confirmed the second human death in Egypt from the H5N1 avian influenza virus. “She died last night in hospital,” said ministry spokesman Saayid al-Abbasi.
The death was unexpected, government officials said, in light of considerable improvements in her health condition in recent days. “Her condition was stable, but her health suddenly took a turn for the worse,” al-Abbasi explained.
One reason cited by the ministry for the death was the fact that the 30 year-old woman went to hospital 10 days after the appearance of symptoms commonly associated with the potentially deadly virus. She had also been in regular contact with infected birds. Health authorities recommend that people seek treatment within 48 hours of the first symptoms in order to maximise chances for of treatment.
Egypt’s first human death from bird flu occurred on 17 March, a full month after the confirmation of the virus among birds. Since then, three other human cases have been reported, two of whom have fully recovered, according to the ministry. No new cases have been reported, al-Abbasi said.
In a bid to allay growing fears and inform the public about the virus, the government has been carrying out intensive media awareness campaigns, said ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine. “We’ve been raising awareness for months, issuing posters, brochures and television spots, while working closely with the media,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working in tandem with the government in a bid to combat the flu, issuing recommendations which – for the most part – are being implemented. “Although there was a temporary reduction some time ago in the frequency of the government’s awareness campaigns, it’s definitely back on track now,” Hassan al-Bushra, WHO regional adviser for emerging diseases, told IRIN.
Al-Bushra went on to commend Cairo for its holistic approach and effective implementation, emphasising that fighting bird flu constituted a collective responsibility. “A number of ministries are involved, as are the military and civil society institutions,” al-Bushra said. “They’ve been doing a lot.”
Meanwhile, in an effort to avert the spread of the virus to humans, the government launched a number of additional measures last month. A government-ordered domestic cull is currently being enforced in urban areas, for example, with pecuniary penalties being doled out to offenders. The maximum fine for keeping birds within city limits is the equivalent of US $1,740.
Domestic fowl were banned in cities soon after the first discovery of the virus in chickens in mid-February. A ban on inter-provincial transport of birds also remains in place, although the restriction continues to be flouted by some. “We’re working hard to minimise that,” said Shahine.
Currently, only the sale of government-licensed fowl, which have been subject to tests, can be sold legally.