Another human case of bird flu in Egypt

CAIRO, 12 October (IRIN) - Egyptian health officials on Thursday blamed the most recent case of human bird-flu infection in Egypt on poor observance of government regulations aimed at stamping out the virus, after it was confirmed on Wednesday that a 39-year old woman in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya had contracted avian influenza.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Sayyid Abbasi said that "people are sticking to their habits, and they are forgetting our message."Earlier this year, the Egyptian government and international agencies embarked on a nation-wide campaign to persuade the population not to keep poultry inside their homes.

The latest victim to be infected with the H5N1 virus , Hanan Aboul Magd, was admitted to hospital on 4 October. She reportedly contracted the virus after buying and slaughtering infected ducks at her home. She is the 15th human case of bird-flu in Egypt since the first signs of the outbreak were seen in the country in February. Six of those patients have since died.Hanan is reported to be in a stable condition, and her family are being tested for the virus.

Egypt's densely populated Nile Valley saw the worst concentration of bird-flu infection this year outside Asia. The Valley lies on major routes for migratory birds, and has a large rural population that has traditionally reared poultry for food and income.

The government has overseen the culling of some 30 million birds since then, and has put into place tough restrictions on poultry keeping. So-called 'backyard birds', which are chickens or ducks kept in small numbers in low-income homes for extra food or cash, have been outlawed.

Dr John Jabbour, of the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Department at the World Health Organization's regional office in Cairo, said that "it is a matter of changing behaviour. People are sometimes not honest [about keeping birds]. They know they are in danger but for other reasons they still have them."Jabbour also added that the government has succeeded in removing poultry from the homes of people in Cairo, "but in more rural areas people are not accepting that they have to get rid of backyard birds."

Minister for Health and Population Hatem el-Gabali said on Tuesday that hospitals across Egypt had been put on a high state of alert. The Ministry's spokesperson Abbassi also added "we are working to 'recharge' the media message, through all the available channels."An incidence of the virus amongst poultry was also recorded last month in the Upper Egypt town of Edfu, although no human infection was reported. (from Reuters)


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