Another bird flu case in Egypt...

Health authorities in Egypt announced last week that another child has been hospitalized with the H5N1 avian virus, the country's second case in a child in less than a week.

The 8-year-old boy from the Fayoum district about 85 km's south of Cairo, was hospitalized in Cairo last week after becoming sick with a fever and experiencing breathing difficulties and pulmonary inflammation.

His case which has yet to be confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), will take the number of cases in Egypt to 47.

Health officials say the boy is receiving oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

Earlier this month a 25-year-old woman, also from Fayoum governorate, died of an H5N1 infection but health officials say there appears to be no connection between the boy and the woman.

Egypt has reported four H5N1 cases in the last two weeks including the one fatality.

There have been no reports so far on how the boy may have picked up the bird flu virus and most cases to date in Egypt have been in women or girls, who are the primary caretakers of poultry, however the last two infections have been in boys and infected poultry could be the culprit.

According to a recent report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the spread of the bird flu virus in Egypt is related to a large and quickly moving poultry supply chain, for which bio-security levels are low.

The report says recent outbreaks appear to be linked to the close proximity of ducks and chickens raised on rooftops and backyards to industrial poultry facilities and says ducks are instrumental in the spread of the H5N1 virus.

Egyptian health authorities say though the law prohibits the raising of birds in urban areas, not everyone abides and birds raised on rooftops are relatively isolated.

In rural areas people and chickens often live in the same space and the authorities say changing the culture of people is not easy and many simply do not believe the dangers of avian influenza.

As many as 5 million households in Egypt depend on poultry as a main source of food and income, and the government admits this makes it unlikely the disease can be eradicated despite a large-scale poultry vaccination programme.

Since February 2006 twenty people have died from bird flu in Egypt and this is the third winter that the virus has struck.

Worldwide since 2003 more than 230 people have died from bird flu with Indonesia being the worst hit.

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