CAIRO: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Egypt needs to raise public awareness of bird flu, its causes and prevention. However, despite this claim, there is little information coming out of the WHO regional office in Cairo regarding methods to accomplish this.
At least two Egyptians have died as a result of the H5N1 strain of the deadly avian influenza, while two others have been treated with Tamiflu and released from the hospital. bird flu was discovered in Egypt Feb. 17, in seven turkeys.
Human-to-human transmission has yet to occur, although the WHO warns that the disease could mutate, which could cause a worldwide pandemic resulting in the death of millions.
You need to do more health education. Most of the cases are backyard farms and people who are not really abiding by the instructions of the government, a WHO spokesman says.
Other than saying the Ministry of Health needs to get the word out to the people on how to prevent the flu from spreading, the WHO hasn’t said much.
Bird flu, which has spread from Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, remains an animal disease, although it can infect people who come into contact with sick poultry.
A U.S. military laboratory in Egypt has confirmed that four people have caught the virus. Health authorities, who carry out initial tests on sick people, announced a fifth suspected case on Sunday.
These cases were expected. I expect them to disappear soon because [the government] now have even more strict measures in place, the spokesman says. Generally, the government is doing a good job.
The WHO has yet to confirm the deaths as a result of the H5N1 strain of bird flu. They conduct their tests in a laboratory in Britain, but expect results soon.
Despite WHO officials praising the government’s monitoring network, it is difficult to stop the impoverished from raising poultry on their own, which is why the disease is still being found in humans.
According to a Reuters report Wednesday, there are still hundreds, if not thousands of people living in rural areas in Egypt that continue to raise poultry on their own. The report states that this is due to the fact the government has not given enough, if any, monetary compensation for the culls that have occurred.
The Egyptian government has promised monetary subsidies to the farmers hit by having to cull their poultry farms. According to Reuters, however, this isn’t enough.
One man, in a Middle Egypt village, told Reuters that he has not seen any money and in order to feed his family he has to continue raising the poultry. His attempt to hide the shed where he is raising chickens was a futile attempt, as the squawking and evidence of their existence was obvious.
Since Feb. 17, the government has culled poultry on thousands of farms throughout the country. This, WHO officials say, is the best way of containing the disease and preventing it from spreading more rapidly.
The WHO also says that without a concerted effort on the government to maintain security previsions on poultry farmers throughout the country, the disease could be endemic to Egypt and cause unneeded distress in the coming years.
Despite the WHO and the UN telling countries hit by the H5N1 strain of avian flu that there needs to be educational programs detailing the disease and its prevention to their citizens, nothing of substance is coming from their officials. This leads many in Egypt, especially the poor and impoverished who haven’t received money from the government, to question the WHO.
According to a WHO official, they are currently formulating a document in Arabic, which will help farmers understand the real threat the disease poses. They hope that this will enable the culling to continue and will eventually prevent the disease from continuing to spread in Egypt.