Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lost in Translations


# 266

For the past few days, all eyes in the panflu world have been focused once again on Egypt with the news of three deaths over the last week. There are additional reports, as yet unconfirmed, of other suspected human cases in hospitals. Determining exactly how widespread this outbreak really is, for now, impossible.


This resurgence is not unexpected. The H5N1 bird flu virus propagates far better in cooler weather, as do most influenza viruses, and winter has returned to the Nile Valley. Temps are running in the mid to low 50’s F (mid teens Celsius) for afternoon highs, and will continue to decrease over the next month or two.


Officially, the WHO (World Health Organization) released the following yesterday:

Avian influenza in Egypt
27 December 2006
The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population has informed WHO of three new human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection. All three cases belong to one extended family in Gharbiyah province, 80 kilometres northwest of the capital city, Cairo. While being transferred and cared for at the country's designated avian influenza hospital, a 30 year-old female, a 15 year-old girl and a 26 year-old male died. The most recent death occurred on 27 December. The cases reportedly had contact with sick poultry (ducks).

Clinical specimens from the three cases were tested positive for avian influenza A(H5N1) virus by Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory. The virus was also detected in specimens from two of the three patients by US Naval Medical Research Unit No.3 (NAMRU-3). The samples will be sent to WHO Collaborating Centre for further testing including virus characterization.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population is conducting further investigations and has initiated public health measures. The other family members remain healthy and have been placed under close observation.


This was the first `official’ update we’ve received since late November. These WHO reports are not, however, our only source of information.


Arabic newspapers are beginning to carry news accounts of these new deaths, and while translations are not always completely accurate, and reported new cases are often difficult to discern, we are beginning to learn more.


Much of the hard work of deciphering these news accounts has been undertaken by a small but growing group of flubies on several flu forums. Working long hours, pouring painstakingly over foreign language newspapers, and running text through machine translators, these heroes of the flu watching world are doing an invaluable service for the rest of us.


By no means alone in her endeavors, Theresa42 over at Flutrackers may be one of the hardest working persons in this field. Her work is routinely referenced on other sites, along with the work of flu detectives like Sharpe, Niman, and a host of others too numerous to mention.


Today, this hearty band of volunteers is trying to determine, mostly from Arabic news reports, just how many suspected cases of H5N1 infections there are right now in Egypt. The consensus seems to be somewhere between 7 and 11 additional patients (not counting the 4 that have died since October).


From Theresa42

Tanta Fevers Hospital:

(1) Nura Saleh Abdul Moneim (25F)

(2) Moselhi Ismail's hopes (28F)
(3) Hanem Ahmed Fattouh the sponsor (51F)

Al Mahallah Fevers Hospital:

(4) Souna Mohamed Al Nagar [Suna Mohammad Najjar] (55?)
(5) the release of Mr. Mohamed (52?)
(10) Sabah Ibrahim Al Fakharani from a village by us Abu Seer belonging to Samanoud center
(11) child Mohamed Farahat the head from the same village
Abu Sir Bana?

Zagazig Fevers Hospital:
(6) Amal Hassan Fawzi's transfer from the region of "the triumphant station" [Mansoura She] in Zagazig
(7) its daughter "Fathiya Said" to the hospital of Zagazig fevers.

From Sharpe

Re: EGYPT - 11? susp cases in Bani Suwayf, Al Gharbiyah & Ash Sharqiyah governorates

So there we have it, at this point:
four confirmed patients (all dead) and 11 suspected patients (the ones that Theresa mentions below plus two she didn't mention--in Beni Suef--mentioned earlier:
Hoda Abdel-Hamid of the village of Blvia Amal Mohammad Omar from the village of Riyadh PashaNote that Hoda Abdel-Hamid has the same surname as the confirmed family.

Total: 15 patients--4 confirmed, 11 suspected.

And courtesy of a translation from Niman, we get this from the news site.

The death of the three Western province due to the illness of avian flu to spread terror among the citizens of cities and villages to maintain different was the declaration of a state of emergency among all organs and upgrade preparations in all hospitals and the provision of additional quantities of antimalarial drug for the disease.


Machine translations being what they are, inaccurate at times, we must assume the reference to antimalarials should likely be interpreted as antivirals.


What then, do we make of all of this? How much stock can we put in these reports?


Despite the best efforts of Theresa42, Niman, Sharpe, and others, there is just so much they can do with the limitations of the foreign press reports and translating software they have available. The exact numbers may differ from what they have gathered, and some of these cases may prove to be something other than H5N1.


What is significant is that while the mainstream press ignores the situation, and we hear little or nothing from official sources, there is apparently something going on in Egypt. With the approach of the annual Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, these reports cannot be easily dismissed.


And it is likely that whatever it is, we will learn about it, not from official sources, but through the dedication and hard work of flubies like the ones at Flutrackers, the Wiki, PFP, CE, and PFI.


The virus never sleeps. And we should thank our lucky stars that, apparently,  neither do they.

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