- The government of Egypt, the second African country to catch the bird flu, is cautious to assure the national population and foreign states that the situation is firmly under control. According to the national committee overseeing the fight against the bird flu, "the infection is receding" and there are no signs of human infections.
The Cairo ministerial group established to combat the spread of avian flu, chaired by Egypt's Minister of Health, Hatem Al-Gabali, yesterday said it had been "continuously reviewing measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus among poultry stocks and to reduce opportunities of human infection." Government claims to be in control.
To date there have been no cases of human infection, the Committee reported. During the week, there had been fears of human infections and 31 persons from the Giza region, close to Cairo, who had been in contact with dead birds or were employed at farms were infection had been detected. This week, they were tested and "all results were negative for avian flu," the government says.
The Cairo government however recognises that the danger is not over for future human infections. Minister of Health Al-Gabali noted "all necessary precautionary measures were being taken to protect public health." As poultry is still infected, it was necessary to "reduce opportunities" of human infection.
No new sites of infection have been discovered in Egypt during the last few days. Some individual new infections of the feared and deadly H5N1 bird flu virus had however been documented on three of the sites, including Giza, that had recorded cases earlier. In the cities of Cairo and Luxor, where cases were documented last week, no new cases were reported.
Egyptian authorities immediately started massive campaigns to stop the spread of bird flu after the virus was found in domesticated poultry late last month. Mass slaughtering of poultry and strict quarantine measures were adopted. The outbreak was restricted to 15 governorates and so far, it seems that authorities have managed to stop further spread. Already on Monday, Minister Al-Gabali was able to announce that the "infection is receding."
Encouraged by the progress, the Minister this week said the Cairo government had decided not to consider vaccination of poultry. "So far there is no vaccine in the whole world to prevent bird flu infection," Mr Al-Gabali said, denying recent reports on reaching an Egyptian vaccine for treating H5N1 virus as baseless.
The Minister noted that the only vaccine accredited by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in this regard is Tamiflu provided in all hospitals of Ministry of Health. "We have signed a contract with the Swiss manufacturer of Tamiflu to provide all our needs in case of human infection," added the minister, stressing that Tamiflu is given for free. Vaccinating poultry was out of the question.
The bird flu outbreak in Egypt has been restricted to domestic poultry on farms in 15 governorates around the country. No wild birds have been observed infected by the H5N1 virus. It is therefore widely concluded that the disease entered Egypt through illegally imported poultry, as probably is the case in Nigeria and Niger as well. The illegal poultry trade is an enormous industry, with bird flu infected China being one of the major players.
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