Bird flu case # 5 in Egypt as virus sweeps around the world

Health officials in Egypt have confirmed that a 5th person is suspected to have bird flu.

Hatem el-Gabali Egypt's health minister says samples taken from the 18-year-old girl were being tested for bird flu, which has already killed one Egyptian.

The girl who comes from the village of Miniet Quellin north west of Cairo, has been treated with Tamiflu the drug widely used to fight bird flu in humans.

The girl apparently became sick four days before checking into hospital on Saturday.

She had reportedly been handling dead birds.

Health officials have confirmed the first death from the H5N1 strain of bird flu in a 35-year-old woman from a rural area.

The woman was apparently in the habit of allowing her chickens to sleep underneath her bed.

Authorities say a second suspected case in a man, who appears to be recovering, is still being investigated.

Two other Egyptians suspected of catching bird flu left hospital on Sunday. Another is still being treated in hospital.

The government has tightened restrictions on bird sales and many in the poultry industry fear for their livelihood following the government's eradication program for infected farms and police are patrolling neighborhoods looking for maverick poultry sellers.

The disease is difficult for humans to catch but can be caught through contact with infected birds.

An estimated 750,000 people in Egypt work in large-scale poultry farms and some estimate the poultry industry has been losing as much as $1.7 million a day.

In Cairo rooftop farms are common where people tend chickens and pigeons and many prefer to buy their food in open markets and select live birds.

As Egypt lies along a major migration route between Asia and Africa the government has tried to ban rooftop farming to prevent the virus spreading from wild migratory birds.

The government has announced a vaccination program but is expecting farmers themselves to pay the cost of inoculating their flocks in areas where bird flu has been found.

Close neighbor Israel has also confirmed bird flu in several locations and Israeli officials have slaughtered thousands of turkeys suspected of carrying the virus.

They also say the virus has been found in the Gaza Strip, in a settlement in the Jordan Valley and in farms in Israel.

According to reports, Jordan has declared a state of alert and issued a one-week deadline for people raising domestic fowl to dispose of them.

Experts have long feared that the H5N1 strain of bird flu could mutate into a form that can pass easily between humans, triggering a worldwide pandemic.

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