CAIRO: Egypt said on Thursday a fourth woman had died after being infected with the bird flu virus, the state MENA news agency said.
The latest victim was an 18-year-old woman from a province north of Cairo, who was admitted to hospital on Monday. Egypt has so far reported 12 human bird flu cases.
An 18-year-old woman from Ashmoun in Monoufiya has died of bird flu, bringing the number of deaths to four from the 12 people who have been infected, MENA quoted Health Minister Hatem El-Gabali as saying.
The woman had been admitted to hospital after handling domestically kept birds infected with bird flu, he added.
She had been on an artificial respirator since she was admitted, and had died despite receiving Tamiflu, an anti-viral medication thought to be the best method of fighting bird flu in humans.
Of the 12 Egyptians infected over the past weeks, four have died, five have recovered and three are receiving treatment, health officials said. According to health officials, although no human-to-human transmission has yet been reported in Egypt, the risk of contamination from infected birds remains as high because public awareness is low.
The disease, which has killed at least 109 people worldwide, has spread 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 easily between humans, sparking a pandemic.
Bird flu was detected in birds in Egypt in February and the first human infection was reported in mid-March. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already said it was concerned about the disease s human toll in a relatively short period of time.
The world famous Cairo Zoo has also been shut down since February because birds there had tested positive for the deadly flu.
Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, is on a major route for migratory birds and is the hardest-hit non-Asian country since the bird flu epidemic broke out in 2003.
Egypt s efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by people breeding poultry in their homes despite a government ban, because they say they are too poor to slaughter their birds.
Poultry is an important source of income and protein for millions of Egyptians.
Women, who make up all 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.
The WHO, which carries out additional tests after initial government testing, has so far confirmed four of Egypt s total cases including two of the deaths. Agencies