March 23, 2009 / 4:35 PM / 9 years ago

Egyptian woman contracts bird flu: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - A 38-year-old Egyptian woman has contracted the H5N1 strain of bird flu and is in a stable condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The woman, from Elfath in central Egypt, developed a fever and headache on March 14 and was admitted to hospital where she is being given the antiviral drug Tamivir, it said.

The Geneva-based U.N. agency said she fell ill after coming into contact with dead and sick poultry. She is the 59th case of bird flu in the Arab country.

Since 2003, the H5N1 avian influenza virus has infected 412 people and killed 256 of them, WHO figures show.

While H5N1 rarely infects people, scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, unleashing a pandemic that could kill millions.

Egypt has had the third largest number of cases, at 59, behind Indonesia and Vietnam. It has the fourth largest number of deaths, at 23, behind Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

(For the latest WHO bird flu figures go to:

here )

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Katie Nguyen

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