Bird flu continues to sweep across the globe

An Egyptian health ministry official says the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that four Egyptians have caught bird flu, including two who died from the virus.

According to the government to date eight Egyptians have been infected by bird flu, two of those have recovered, while the others are still being treated.

Bird flu reappeared in December 2003 when South Korea confirmed a highly contagious strain of the virus at a chicken farm near Seoul.

Since then it has killed at least 107 people worldwide, according to the WHO.

The virus first appeared in Egypt in birds in February and has since decimated the poultry industry.

Although the government has imposed strict measures to control the spread of the virus such as banning the domestic rearing of fowl, people in poor rural areas have apparently largely ignored such instructions.

Although the disease remains predominantly a bird one and has not to date been transmitted from human to human, it can be caught from infected birds.

Scientists fear it could mutate into a form that can pass easily between humans triggering a pandemic in which millions could die.

Since 2003 the virus has spread to almost all corners of the globe.

It has been found in domestic poultry and the wild bird population.

International donors pledged $1.9 billion early this year to combat the spread of bird flu at the end of a conference in Beijing.

The virus has now appeared in Africa, Italy, Iran, Austria, Germany, India, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Niger, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Denmark, Israel, Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt.

Of the 107 deaths 4 were in Turkey, 22 in Indonesia, 5 in Cambodia, 11 in China, 14 in Thailand, 42 in Vietnam, 2 in Iraq, 5 in Azerbaijan and 2 in Egypt.

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