CAIRO: Egypt has found its 12th case of human bird flu, Health and Population Minister Hatem El-Gabaly said in comments published late on Monday. The latest case was an 18-year-old woman from a province north of Cairo who caught the virus after handling infected birds, the state MENA news agency quoted Gabaly and ministry officials saying. The ministry said the woman was in a stable condition and members of her family were being tested for infection. She is being given Tamiflu, the necessary treatment for battling bird flu, a ministry official said, referring to the anti-viral medication thought to be the best method of fighting bird flu in humans. The deadly H5N1 strain has so far killed three people in Egypt, according to the government. A further five have made full recoveries and four remain in hospital. The World Health Organization (WHO), which carries out additional tests after initial government testing, has confirmed four of Egypt s total cases including two of the deaths. The disease, which has killed at least 109 people worldwide, has spread rapidly since 2003 from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While mainly affecting animals, scientists fear the disease could mutate into a form that can pass between humans, sparking a pandemic. Bird flu was detected in birds in Egypt in February and the first human infection was reported mid-March. The WHO has said it is concerned about the disease s human toll in a relatively short period of time in Egypt, which is on a major route for migratory birds, at the crossroads between Asia and Africa.
Egypt, where urban rooftop and backyard rearing are almost part of national folklore, has slapped a ban on domestic poultry farms and more than 10 million birds are believed to have been slaughtered. While monitoring compliance with government measures is easier in large poultry farms, many Egyptians with small domestic farms have been reluctant to cull their birds The government pays around LE 5, less than $1, for every slaughtered bird. Egypt consumes some 800 million birds a year and exports many to the entire region.
Farmers in Egypt, the Arab world s most populous state, say the poultry market is worth about LE 17 billion ($3 billion) and supports up to 3 million people, but has been devastated.
State efforts to contain the virus have been hampered by people who continue to rear poultry domestically despite the ban, because they say they are too poor to slaughter their birds. Women, who make up all three of Egypt s fatalities, are often responsible for slaughtering and cooking domestic poultry, and the government has called for more awareness about bird flu among women to protect themselves and their families.
An Egyptian worker in Jordan has according to reports recovered after arriving in the country with the virus. Agencies