CAIRO – A 16-year-old girl died of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu on Monday, the 23rd fatality and 51st case of the disease among humans in Egypt, state news agency MENA said.
Samiha Salem from a village in the central Egyptian province of Asyut caught the disease after exposure to sick household poultry, MENA quoted a health ministry official as saying.
The official said Salem began suffering symptoms a week ago, after two of the household ducks died and the remainder of the flock was slaughtered in the house.
Salem was subsequently admitted to hospital with a high fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and then transferred to intensive care. She was treated with the antiviral drug tamiflu, but suffered a pulmonary infection and respiratory failure, and died on Monday.
Her death is the first bird flu fatality in Egypt since April, and the first of the current winter season. The virus, which first appeared in Egypt in February 2006, tends to be less active in summer.
About 5 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 despite a large-scale poultry vaccination programme.
Experts fear the H5N1 virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people. Since the virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003, it has killed more than 200 people in a dozen countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
Egypt has been the worst-hit country outside Asia.