CAIRO: Calls to the Egyptian Ministry of Health regarding the number of swine flu cases in Egypt have gone unanswered since the announcement Sunday of 10 new cases, brining the total to 130, most of them now recovered.
This comes just as the recent upsurge in swine flu (H1N1) cases prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to stop asking governments to report new cases, according to the Associated Press. The organization has recorded 130,000 cases of H1N1 in the past four months but has not been updated the numbers on its website since July 16.
England s Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced 100,000 new cases of the virus in the country in the past week alone. According to health officials in the United States, the US has over one million cases of H1N1.
On Monday, the Egyptian health ministry reported its first H1N1-related death. A 25-year-old Egyptian woman returning from Mecca died as a result of contracting swine flu in Saudi Arabia.
Her death was the first swine flu related death in Africa and the Middle East.
Most cases of swine flu are mild, the disease in this particular case was made more severe due to the woman s existing heart problems, the Egyptian Ministry of Health stated on Monday.
The WHO originally estimated that as many as 2 billion people could be infected with swine flu over the course of the next two years.
Wednesday saw a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the ministers announced a decision to ban the elderly and the very young from pilgrimage to Mecca.
After a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo, Ibrahim Al-Kerdani, WHO spokesman in Egypt, was quoted as saying that those who will be excluded from Hajj include people over the age of 65, people under the age of 12, as well as those with chronic illnesses.
Over 2 million pilgrims are expected in Mecca and Medina over the course of the next five months, says an article by the Associated Press.
According to a weekly report produced by England s health officials, children under the age of 14 are the most likely to become infected. People over the age of 65 demonstrate much lower rates of infection.
This past week also saw the cancellation of the Sayeda Zeinab Moulid amid fears that the virus would spread among the expected large crowds.
Despite police efforts to crack down on anyone who tried to set up a stall or food booth, the cancellation did not prevent hundreds from flocking to the streets in anticipation of the festival on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, governments and scientists across the globe continued their efforts to find a vaccine for H1N1, says an article by AFP. Human trials have begun on a potential serum in Australia. The United States is asking for volunteers to test two potential vaccines, and a Chinese company announced their intention to test another vaccine.
According to Keiji Fukuda, WHO s Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment, vaccines are expected to be ready in September or October, a time traditionally viewed as the start of flu season.
Everybody involved with the vaccine work, from manufacturers up to the regulatory agencies, are looking at what steps can be taken to make the process as streamlined as possible, Fukuda said in an interview with the Associated Press.
According to the World Health Organization, around 800 people have died from swine-flu related complications in the past four months.