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Bird flu continues to threaten developing world
Published in Daily News Egypt on 04 - 02 - 2007

CAIRO: In recent weeks, Egyptian media has highlighted the dangers of the possibilities that the current H5N1 avian influenza, also known as the bird flu virus, 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 lat January, the most recent victim of an upsurge of contractions this winter.
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.
Now, WHO has confirmed that bird flu killed a 22-year-old Nigerian woman, making her the first known human fatality of the H5N1 virus in sub-Saharan Africa. The outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza began in Asia in 2003 and has spread rapidly over the past year.
The following are some facts about bird flu and its spread around the globe.
Since the virus re-emerged in Asia in 2003, outbreaks have been confirmed in around 50 countries and territories, according to data from the World Organization for Animal Health.
More than 30 countries have reported outbreaks in the past year, in most cases involving wild birds such as swans.
The virus has killed 165 people since 2003, according to WHO. Countries with confirmed human deaths are: Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
In total, the virus is known to have infected 271 people since 2003, according to WHO. Many of those who have died are children and young adults.
Vietnam and Indonesia have the highest number of cases, accounting for 105 of the total deaths.
The H5N1 virus is not new to science and was responsible for an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Scotland in 1959. Britain confirmed a new case in Scotland on April 6.
H5N1 is not the only bird flu virus. There are numerous strains. For example, an outbreak in 2003 of the H7N7 bird flu virus in the Netherlands led to the destruction of more than 30 million birds, around a third of the country s poultry stock. About 2.7 million were destroyed in Belgium and around 400,000 in Germany.
In the Netherlands, 89 people were infected with the H7N7 virus, of whom one (a veterinarian) died.
The H5N1 virus made the first known jump into humans in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six of them. The government ordered the immediate culling of the territory s entire poultry flock, ending the outbreak.
Symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, to eye inflammations (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications. With additional reporting by Reuters.


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