April 3, 2006

Health body confirms 4 Egypt bird flu cases

CAIRO (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has
confirmed that four Egyptians have caught bird flu, including
two who died from the virus, an Egyptian Health Ministry
official said on Monday.

Nasr al-Sayyed told Reuters that a WHO laboratory in
Britain had verified the four cases as the dangerous H5N1
strain of the virus. The result was received on Sunday, he
said. The Egyptian government sends samples from people it
suspects have caught the virus to the WHO for final

The government says a total of eight Egyptians have been
infected by bird flu. Two of those have recovered, while the
others are still being treated.

Two sisters aged 18 months and six years were the most
recent cases reported by the government, although the WHO has
yet to confirm they have the virus. They are in intensive care,
the official MENA news agency quoted the health minister as
saying on Monday.

Bird flu has killed at least 107 people worldwide,
including the deaths in Egypt, according to the most recent
figures from the WHO.

The virus was first detected in Egypt in birds in February
and has devastated the poultry industry. The government has
banned domestic rearing of fowl, but people in poor rural areas
are ignoring instructions to get rid of their poultry.

Bird flu has so far not been transmitted from human to
human, but can be caught from infected birds. Although
difficult for humans to catch, scientists fear it could mutate
into a form that can pass easily between humans.