CAIRO: A new human death from the H5N1 avian influenza virus does not signal increased danger of an epidemic, according to health officials.
“The woman in question died because she had very low immunity and because she was late to report her infection, said health ministry media official Sayyid Al-Abbasi. “This is by no means a sign that health authorities aren’t able to contain the threat.
A 75-year-old woman from Minya province, some 220 km south of Cairo, succumbed to the disease on May 18 after being exposed to infected birds in her village, according to a health ministry press statement.
While she began to show symptoms of the virus as early as May 11, she did not immediately report to hospital. “She sought treatment at a Minya hospital on May 15, showing symptoms including high fever, strong coughing and breathing difficulties, the statement read.
Al-Abbasi pointed out that her advanced age also played a role in her death. “Her old age meant that her immunity levels were low, he explained.
The fatal case was the sixth of its kind to occur in Egypt within the last two months. Since the virus was first reported among fowl in mid-February, millions of birds have been culled across the country. Infected birds have been found in 20 of Egypt’s 26 provinces.
There have been a total of 14 human cases since mid-March, eight of whom have fully recovered. The rate of recovery, however, has been relatively good compared to other countries, where recovery rates lie at about 50 percent.
“Compared with other countries where human H5N1 infections have been found, the recovery rate in Egypt has been very good, Mona Yassin, the World Health Organization’s technical assistant for media and communications, said on May 2.
Experts point out that the overwhelming majority of human cases in Egypt have been women who were infected by domestically kept birds.
Soon after the announcement of the first cases of bird infections, a law was passed banning domestic breeding in urban areas.
Health authorities have not pushed for similar restrictions in rural areas, however, where domestic breeding is more widespread and economically vital. ]”A ban would lead many to conceal their birds, heightening the danger rather than quelling it, explained health ministry press spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine. “Instead, we’re working to help them increase awareness to prevent the emergence of new cases. IRIN