Egyptian boy, 2, tests positive for bird flu

By Aziz El-Kaissouni

CAIRO, March 19 (Reuters) - A 2-year-old Egyptian boy has tested positive for bird flu, bringing the number of people who have contracted the disease in the most populous Arab country to 26, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry identified the boy as Youssef Mohamed Mahmoud and said he was admitted to hospital on Friday in Aswan, the same southern city where a 10-year-old girl tested positive for the disease last week. She has since recovered.

"He's in good condition now because Tamiflu was given within 24 hours after the onset of symptoms," John Jabbour, a World Health Organisation official in Cairo, told Reuters.

Jabbour said there was no apparent link between the two Aswan cases, and the Health Ministry said in a statement that members of the boy's family were under observation.

Since the virus first surfaced in Egyptian poultry in early 2006, 13 Egyptians have died from the disease. Most of those who fell ill were reported to have had contact with sick or dead household birds, primarily in northern Egypt.

Egypt has the largest number of confirmed human cases outside of Asia, and with eight confirmed cases this year is among the hardest-hit countries worldwide for 2007.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation's chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech said on Thursday that Egypt was one of three countries that still do not have sufficient bird flu controls in place.

Health experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that passes easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions. The virus has killed 169 people worldwide since 2003, according to WHO. (Additional reporting by Alaa Shahine)


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