CAIRO: Poultry tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus in several governorates across Egypt despite the government s efforts to contain the spread of bird flu, the authorities said Sunday. Since the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza was first detected in three governorates Thursday, it was also reported in at least six others. “In most cases, the infected animals came from domestic farms counting some 30 birds. They were not industrial farms, said an official from the Supreme national committee to combat bird flu. He said that in one case, however, an entire flock of 10,000 thousand was slaughtered after one dead bird tested positive in the governorate of Qalubia, which is home to the country s poultry stock exchange. The official also told AFP that between 2,000 and 3,000 Egyptians presenting fever symptoms had undergone medical examinations but stressed that all tests had been negative so far. Most of the infected animals came from domestic farmyards, including in Cairo, and Egypt has embarked on an awareness campaign in a bid to put an end to widespread rooftop and backyard poultry rearing. According to experts, animals in rooftop farmyards are more easily infected by migratory birds and are not subjected to veterinary control. The domestic setting also heightens the risk of transmission to humans. “Such farms are theoretically banned. They have been tolerated for a long time but we are now going to deploy more efforts to enforce the law, the official said. The H5N1 strain has claimed at least 90 lives, mostly of Asians, since late 2003. It has now spread to Africa and Europe. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a strain that could be transmitted easily among humans, circumstances that could cause a global pandemic that could kill millions of people.
In related news, the Egyptian authorities closed Cairo zoo and seven other state-run zoos around the country for two weeks from Sunday to prevent the spread of bird flu. Cairo zoo manager Talaat Sidraus told Reuters that zoo workers have immediately started disinfecting bird cages. Witnesses saw dead and sick birds inside the zoo grounds on Sunday but it was not immediately clear if they had bird flu. Large flocks of egrets and other wild birds live in the trees in and around the zoo.
The authorities have reported cases of bird flu in seven provinces, stretching from Dakahlia in the northeast of the Nile Delta to Qena in the far south. At least 10,000 birds have been culled at a chicken farm north of Cairo. On Sunday, merchants who normally slaughter and sell live chickens on the street had closed in compliance with a ban. Some remained open but had few customers. The government said it was importing 73,000 packets of Tamiflu, one of the few medicines thought to alleviate the symptoms of the disease when it hits humans. No human cases have been diagnosed in Egypt. AFP