Dec 27, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A 26-year-old Egyptian man died of H5N1 avian influenza today, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported, bringing to 3 the number of deaths from the disease since Christmas Eve.
A 30-year-old woman died Dec 24, and a 15-year-old girl died Dec 25, several media outlets reported. The three patients become Egypt's 16th, 17th, and 18th cases and the country's 8th, 9th, and 10th deaths.
All three patients were from an extended family living in the Gharbiya province in the Nile Delta, about 50 miles northwest of Cairo, the WHO reported. The patients died while being transferred and cared for at Egypt's designated avian influenza hospital.
Samples from the 3 patients tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza at the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory. The virus was also detected in samples from 2 of the patients in tests conducted at the US Naval Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3). The WHO said the sample will be sent to the WHO Collaborating Center for further testing and virus characterization.
The WHO said other family members remain healthy and are under close observation. The Egyptian health ministry is conducting further investigations and has initiated public health measures.
The 3 patients lived with 33 members of an extended family in a compound in the town of Hanut, the New York Times reported today. The woman and man were reported to be siblings, and the girl, their niece. They reportedly fell ill after slaughtering ducks for a cousin's wedding, the Times reported.
The new cases and deaths aren't surprising, Abdel Rahman Shaheen, an advisor to Egypt's health ministry, told Agence France-Presse today. "When we had a period of calm between May and October, people started thinking the disease was over, but we insisted on creating more awareness among the people," he said.
"We are still expecting more cases, but the idea is to keep them to the smallest possible number," he added.
The H5N1 virus first struck Egyptian poultry in February, and a series of human cases followed in April and May. Cases in poultry resurfaced in Egypt Sep 5, when an outbreak was reported on a farm in the southern province of Sohag, about 305 miles south of Cairo. Another outbreak was reported in late September among domestic birds at a home near Aswan, in southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan.
Several isolated cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in poultry have been reported in Egypt since September, according to a recent update from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Cases have been confirmed in 9 provinces.