Mar 10, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Egypt's health ministry announced recently that an 8-year-old boy has been hospitalized with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, the country's second such illness in a child in less than a week.
Egypt's health ministry said on Mar 8 that the boy, from Fayoum governorate, about 53 miles south of Cairo, was admitted to a hospital after he got sick with a fever, breathing difficulties, and pulmonary inflammation, Reuters reported 2 days ago. If his case is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), he will be listed as Egypt's 47th case-patient.
Abdel Rahman Shaheen, a health ministry spokesman, said the boy was moved to a Cairo hospital where he is receiving oseltamivir (Tamiflu), according to the Reuters report.
A 25-year-old woman, also from Fayoum governorate, died of an H5N1 infection earlier this month, according to a Mar 4 WHO report, which did not list the exact date of her death. However, a health official said there appeared to be no connection between the boy and the woman.
News reports on the boy's illness did not list a possible source of his H5N1 infection. Most patients in Egypt who have contracted H5N1 have been women or girls, who are the primary caretakers of poultry. However, the past two infections have been confirmed in boys.
In the past 2 weeks Egypt has reported four H5N1 cases. One, in the 25-year-old woman, was fatal; the other three occurred in children.
A recent report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said the spread of the H5N1 virus in Egypt is related to a large and quickly moving poultry supply chain, for which biosecurity levels are low, according to a report today from the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The FAO publication said recent outbreaks are apparently related to the close proximity of ducks and chickens raised on rooftops and backyards to industrial poultry facilities, according to the IRIN report, which also noted that ducks were instrumental in the spread of the H5N1 virus.
Abdel-Nasser Abdel-Ghafar, a health ministry official on Egypt's avian influenza committee, told IRIN that though Egyptian laws prohibit raising birds in urban areas, not everyone abides. In urban areas, the birds raised on rooftops are relatively isolated, he said. However, he said in villages, people and chickens often live in the same space.
"Changing the culture of people is not easy," Abdel-Ghafar told IRIN. "[Some] people don't believe [the dangers of avian influenza], and they of course will not believe until something happens to them."
FAO report on socioeconomic impacts of cross-border animal diseases