CAIRO (Reuters) - A 33-year-old Egyptian woman has died of the H5N1 bird flu virus, Egypt’s third human death from bird flu in a week, the state news agency MENA said on Friday.
The woman, Saadiya Mohamed Abdel Latief Hamed, died in Kafr El-Sheikh province and is Egypt’s 26th bird flu victim, MENA said, citing a health ministry statement.
She was admitted to hospital on April 15 suffering from fever and difficulty breathing, and tests confirmed she was infected with H5N1 avian flu. MENA said she had been exposed to infected household poultry.
A 6-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman died from the H5N1 virus on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and an Egyptian woman contracted the virus on Thursday.
Egypt, harder hit by bird flu than any other country outside Asia, has seen a surge of cases in recent weeks, with eight new human infections in April alone — as many as in all of 2008.
Most of the Egyptians infected this year have been young children. While the avian influenza virus rarely infects people, experts say they fear it could mutate into a form that people could easily pass to one another, which might spark a pandemic that could kill millions.
Since 2003, H5N1 has infected more than 400 people in 15 countries and killed more than 250. It has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds in 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Most Egyptians infected with bird flu had come into contact with infected domestic birds in a country where some 5 million households depend on their poultry as a significant source of food and income.
The World Health Organization said this month it was concerned some Egyptians may carry the bird flu virus without showing symptoms, and this could give the virus more scope to mutate to a strain that spreads easily among humans. Whether such cases exist will be the focus of a planned Egyptian government study, backed by the global health body.
Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni, editing by Tim Pearce