CAIRO (AFP) — An Egyptian teenager died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu on Saturday, the health ministry said, the 21st person to succumb to the virus since it was discovered here in 2006.
Mohammed Idris Hassan Ibrahim, 19, from the Nile Delta province of Beheira died in hospital, health ministry official Nasr al-Sayyed told the state MENA news agency.
“The boy had been taken to a hospital in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on April 3 after complaining of high fever and shortness of breath,” Sayyed said.
“He had been exposed to infected poultry,” he said.
Ibrahim was the 48th reported case of human bird flu in the country.
In January, four people died of the disease in just one week, after safety precautions had been relaxed with the belief that the virus had disappeared when no case had been reported in six months.
Last month, a woman died from the virus in Cairo after she was unsuccessfully treated with Tamiflu.
Egypt’s location on major bird migration routes and the widespread practice of keeping domestic fowl near living quarters have led to it being the hardest-hit country outside Asia.
The government says it is conducting a vigorous campaign to combat the spread of the virus through vaccinations and raising awareness, but experts and officials have warned against people dropping their guard.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali warned against slackness in the preventative measures taken to fight bird flu.
Health ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahin has repeatedly urged the public to remain vigilant and deplored the relaxation of precautions.
Officials have called for the banning of raising fowl in towns, and transporting them between provinces without authorisation.
They have also warned sick people that failure to report they have been in contact with contaminated domestic fowl makes it more difficult to detect the virus and to treat it.
Women and children have borne the brunt of the virus because of their role in taking care of domestic fowl.
The WHO said earlier this year that countries around the world had improved their defences against bird flu, but the situation remained critical in Egypt and Indonesia where the risk of the H5N1 virus mutating into a major human threat remains high.
A total of 238 have been killed by the virus worldwide.
The summer weather should shortly put H5N1 back into hiding until the weather once again turns cool.