A 25-year-old Egyptian woman has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, bringing the number of human cases in the most populous Arab country to 38, a World Health Organisation official said on Sunday. “There is a case,” said John Jabbour of the World Health Organisation in Cairo, adding that the woman was believed to have fallen ill after contact with dead household birds.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA identified the woman as Naima Abdu Gamil of the Nile Delta province of Damietta, in northern Egypt. It said she developed a high fever on Friday and was in good condition after receiving the antiviral drug Tamiflu.
The infection was a rare human case in Egypt’s sweltering summer months. Egyptian officials had forecast the virus would hide away during the summer following a pattern set in 2006 when human bird flu cases disappeared between May and October.
While bird flu did diminish in Egypt as the weather warmed, human cases have continued to occur sporadically. Since bird flu first emerged in Egyptian poultry last year, 15 Egyptians have died from the virus.
Bird flu did extensive damage to the country’s poultry industry and the economy after its arrival in Egypt, which has had more confirmed bird flu cases among humans than any other single country outside Asia.
Most of those who have fallen ill in Egypt were reported to have had contact with sick or dead household birds, primarily in northern Egypt where the weather is cooler than in the south.
Experts fear the bird flu virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a deadly pandemic which could circle the globe and kill millions.
Around five million households in Egypt depend on poultry as a main source of food and income and the government has said this makes it unlikely the disease can be eradicated.
The government still finds it hard to enforce restrictions on the movement and sale of live poultry.