Feb 28, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed three more H5N1 avian influenza infections in Egypt, one of them fatal, that surfaced during the weeks surrounding the country's recent political upheaval.
Egypt saw a dramatic spike in human H5N1 infections in 2009 and 2010, and in each of those years the country reported the most H5N1 illnesses globally, outpacing even traditional avian flu hotspots such as Indonesia and Vietnam. The cell phone and Internet blackouts that occurred during Egypt's leadership transition led to some anxiety in the infectious disease community about the status of the H5N1 threat in Egypt.
The country's latest H5N1 infections are from three different governorates and don't appear to be linked, though investigations into the illnesses suggest the patients all had been exposed to sick poultry.
The WHO said the first case-patient is a 26-year-old woman from Dakahlia governorate who got sick on Jan 18 and was hospitalized on Jan 23. She recovered and was released from the hospital on Feb 7.
The second patient is a 45-year-old man from Menofia governorate who got sick on Jan 20, was hospitalized on Jan 26, and died on Feb 5.
The third case is a 4-year-old boy from Damieta governorate who started having symptoms on Feb 14 and was hospitalized 2 days later, where he remains in stable condition.
Egypt's Central Public Health Laboratory, a member of the WHO's global influenza surveillance network, confirmed the three cases, which push the country's number of H5N1 cases to 125, including 41 deaths. Egypt has the world's second-highest number of confirmed cases, behind Indonesia. The global H5N1 count now stands at 525 cases, of which 310 have been fatal.
According to reports about poultry H5N1 outbreaks posted on Egypt's Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR) Web site, detections were sporadic in the early weeks of February during political unrest. However, animal health officials now appear to have resumed their active surveillance activities, along with outbreak response duties.
Since Feb 13 officials have reported 24 outbreaks from nine different governorates. Three occurred at farms, one took place at a checkpoint, and the rest involve household birds. The farm outbreaks led to the culling of 63,500 birds to control the spread of the disease.
Feb 28 WHO statement