EGYPT: First human bird flu death confirmed
IRIN | March 19, 2006
CAIRO, 19 March - After confirmation of Egypt's first human death from the H5N1 avian virus, the government stepped up awareness drives aimed at preventing the further spread of the potentially deadly disease.
"Media and awareness campaigns, which have been dormant over recent weeks, are being intensified in a bid to calm Egyptians," said Ministry of Health official Abdel Sayyid al-Abbas.
On 17 March, Amal Mohamed Ismail, a resident of the village of Nawa, some 40km north of Cairo, was confirmed to have died of the virus. According to al-Abbas, the government is working to sanitise the area as quickly as possible, focussing especially on areas where birds are raised. While tests have indicated that no other humans in the vicinity have been affected, the transport of fowl in or out of Nawa remains forbidden.
There were some reports that the village had been cordoned off shortly after Ismail's death, but government officials deny this. "Movement in and out of the town has not been forbidden, given that the virus cannot be spread from human to human," said al-Abbas.
As a preventive measure, Ismail's immediate family members, all of whom have tested negative for the virus, have been provided with Tamiflu capsules. Meanwhile, the health ministry has provided hospitals countrywide with a total of 82,000 10-capsule boxes of Tamiflu, a number it hopes to raise to one million over coming weeks, al-Abbas said.
According to a health ministry statement, Amal Ismail, who had raised birds on her rooftop, was checked into a Cairo hospital on 15 March with a high fever and pulmonary inflammation – common symptoms of bird flu. She died two days later. Samples have been sent to a laboratory in the UK for further tests.
While there have been no other reports of human flu cases, rights groups have criticised the government's handling of the issue, alleging that the subject had become shrouded in official secrecy. "There are unconfirmed reports of other cases, but the government is actively trying to ensure they aren't reported," said Wagdi Abdel Aziz, director of the Cairo-based Southern Centre for Human Rights Studies.
Ever since the discovery of infected poultry in mid-February, some 10 million birds have been culled nationwide, on orders of the government. A ban on the importation of live fowl and the domestic transport of birds has also been introduced and enforced.
So far, infected birds have been reported in 17 out of Egypt's 26 governorates.
Last modified March 20, 2006