CAIRO: In the first positive news in Egypt’s fight against the spread of bird flu, medical authorities have reported that a boy who contracted the disease weeks ago has now made a full recovery.
Mohammed Ahmed Suleiman, who was hospitalized after testing positive for bird flu on Feb. 16, was released after successful treatment with the medication Tamiflu, the Manshiet Al-Bakry hospital, director Yussri Ragab told reporters.
In recent weeks, Egyptian media has highlighted the dangers of the possibility that the current H5N1 strain of avian influenza could spread or mutate.
Warda Eid Ahmed, 27, from Beni Suef was the 11th Egyptian to die of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in Egypt in late January, the most recent victim of an upsurge of contractions this winter.
The 12th fatality was a 37-year-old woman from Fayyoum province who died on Feb. 16.
Investigations into two Gharbiyah province deaths in December – those of a 16-year old female and her 26-year-old uncle – reveals that the virus has genetically mutated into a form more resistant to Tamiflu (also known as oseltamivir) the most effective treatment for bird flu to date, reported the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
This mutation was previously identified in one case in Vietnam in 2005.
Suleiman s case was the country s 22nd human bird flu infection. Thirteen people have died of bird flu since the H5N1 strain of the disease was first diagnosed in humans in Egypt in March, 2006.
Last month, Al-Akhbar daily newspaper published a statement by Minister of Health Dr Hatem El Gabaly, who indicated that the probability of death from bird flu infection reached up to 50 percent in Egypt, while Chairman of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hamdy El Sayed told the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that the rate reached 100 percent.
Dr Sayed Al-Abbasy from the Ministry of Health told The Daily Star Egypt the discrepancy was a misunderstanding, stating that last winter mortality was 50 percent while it is currently 100 percent.
Al-Abbasy says the reason behind bird flu cases in Egypt was lack of cooperation from the public. He explains that villagers deny contact with poultry, sometimes even hiding the birds in washers or cupboards, for fear that their source of livelihood will be culled. By the time they start getting treatment it is too late.
While Hassan Al-Bushra of the WHO declined to comment on the figures, he commended the Egyptian authorities cooperation and honesty, stating that all cases get reported to the WHO immediately.
Bird flu was first detected in Egypt in February 2006 and has spread to at least 19 of the country s 26 provinces.
Overall, there have been 267 reported human H5N1 cases worldwide, 161 of them fatal. The past year proved the deadliest so far both within Egypt, with ten deaths and 18 contractions, and globally. More than 200 million birds have died from either the virus or preventive culling.
The vast majority of human instances of the disease in Egypt were reported where fowl were raised domestically, and the authorities have struggled to educate the public on the dangers of backyard farming – a significant source of income for many households.
Egypt, the Arab world s most populous state, is also on a major route for migratory birds. Outside Asia, Egypt is the country hardest hit by the virus.
Although around 22 million backyard birds have already been vaccinated, there is a new plan to cover the entire domestic poultry population is due to get under way within a few days.
The Egyptian government is at present appealing to international donor organizations to help raise the $450 million needed to effectively tackle avian influenza. With additional reporting by AFP