A two-year old Egyptian boy contracted the potentially deadly bird flu strain, bringing to 26 the number of people to be diagnosed with the disease since it appeared in the country last year, the Health Ministry said Monday.

Youssef Mohammed Mahmoud from the southern city of Aswan was admitted to a hospital there on Friday, suffering from fever and muscle pain, ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine told the state news agency, MENA.

Mahmoud tested positive for theH5N1 strain of bird flu, MENA said, adding that the child's family raises chickens in their home.

Out of the 26 Egyptians who contracted bird flu since February 2006, 13 have died. Most of those infected have been women or girls, who are usually the ones to take care of household chickens and turkeys.

Since the outbreak of bird flu last year, Egypt has been one of the worst-affected countries outside Asia, where the disease originated. It lies on a main route for migratory birds, which are believed to have brought disease from Asia.

The World Health Organization has reported that mutations were found in two fatalities in Egypt. In those cases, the virus had mutated to a form that could be resistant to the drug Tamiflu, also known as oseltamivir, the medication most often used to treat human bird flu cases.

While the mutations were not drastic enough to spark a pandemic, more mutations could prompt scientists to rethink current treatment strategies, WHO has said.

The H5N1 strain has killed at least 168 people worldwide since 2003. Health officials worldwide worry the bird flu strain could mutate into a form which is easily spread from person to person, sparking a pandemic.