While Europe finds itself on the receiving end of a new H5N8 avian influenza virus this week, Egypt is fighting an old nemesis, the H5N1 virus. Unlike the emerging H5N8 virus, this venerable bird flu has a limited but deadly track record in humans.
H5N1 arrived in Egypt in eight years ago during the great bird flu expansion of 2006 (see H5N8: A Case Of Deja Flu?), and despite aggressive poultry vaccination schemes and attempts to discourage the raising of poultry at home, the virus remains endemic.
Although the number of human infections report in Egypt over the past couple of years has been a fraction of what we were seeing reported 3 or 4 years ago, on Wednesday (see Egypt: 2nd H5N1 Fatality In Two Days) we saw the third announced human infection with the virus in a week.
Today we seeing some of the preparations that have been put in place in the event additional cases appear.
Preventative measures taken at hospitals nationwide after two women died in two days from the H5N1 virus
Ahram Online, Thursday 20 Nov 2014
Hospitals across Egypt have declared a state of emergency following two deaths earlier this week from the H5N1 virus, or bird flu.
An Egyptian woman died on Tuesday from the virus, the second bird flu death in two days and the third this year.
The 30-year-old woman, from Minya governorate in Upper Egypt, contracted the virus after she came into contact with infected birds, Egypt's health ministry said in a statement.
The first fatality this week was a 19-year-old woman who died of the disease on Monday in Upper Egypt's Assiut.
Meanwhile, Alexandria's health ministry declared a state of emergency in all of its hospitals after the two deaths, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.
Ayman Abdel-Moneim, an official in Alexandria's health ministry, told Al-Ahram that the governorate started taking intensive precautionary measures in various hospitals.
While it is always of concern when we see a novel influenza virus jump from a non-human host to a human, after more than 10 years and 600 cases, the virus remains poorly transmissible among humans. The concern is, that over time, that could change.
For now, H5N1 remains primarily a threat to poultry, and to a lesser extent, to those who are in close contact with live birds in regions where the virus is endemic.