Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Egyptian children have H5N1 bird flu - agency

Tue May 26, 2009 8:04pm GMT

CAIRO, May 26 (Reuters) - Two four-year-old Egyptian children have contracted the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus, raising to 76 the number of cases reported in Egypt, the state news agency MENA reported on Tuesday.

Egypt has been hit harder by bird flu than any other country outside Asia and has seen a surge of cases in recent weeks.

The children, a boy and girl, were from different areas of Sharkiya province in the Nile Delta region. Both fell ill after coming into contact with birds with the virus.

The avian flu virus rarely infects people, but experts say they fear it could mutate into a form that humans could easily pass to one another, sparking a pandemic.

Most of those infected have previously been in contact with infected domestic birds in a country where 5 million households raise poultry as a significant source of food and income.

Since 2003, the H5N1 virus has infected more than 400 people in 15 countries and killed more than 250. It has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds in 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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