Sunday, March 01, 2015

Media: WHO H5N1 Mission To Egypt


# 9770


The Egyptian (Arabic & English) press is filled this morning with reports that the World Health Organization will send an expert envoy (led by Dr Keiji Fukuda) to Cairo later this month to assist the MOH in dealing with their H5N1 outbreak.


Aside from the news that Egypt has invited the WHO in, these reports provide some interesting insight on how the MOH continues to `manage’  the outbreak news information.


First, the English language version of the report, after which I’ll have a bit more:


WHO experts to visit Cairo mid March to curb H5N1: Health Minister

Mar. 01, 2015 11:26


CAIRO: An international delegation from the World Health Organization (WHO) is due in Cairo mid-March to discuss ways to tackle Egypt’s endemic outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza, Health Minister Adel Adawy announced Sunday.

The international experts, in collaboration with the health ministry, will work on developing a strategy to ensure the eradication of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Egypt in a short time,” Adawy was quoted by Youm7 Sunday.


In Feb. 14, a 35 year-old man died of H5N1 avian flu in Cairo, marking the 11th death in the country from the disease in 2015, according to the Health Ministry. The death toll reached 10 in 2014.

(Continue . . .)


Aside from the good news that Egypt has invited an expert mission to consult on their H5N1 outbreak, there are a couple of things that stick out about this report.

First, the overly ambitious statement that they will `will work on developing a strategy to ensure the eradication of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Egypt in a short time.’


Considering how well entrenched the virus is across Egypt - and that it has been for nine years - one marvels that the words `ensure the eradication and `in a short time’ could ever find themselves in the same sentence about H5N1.  

Moving on, we continue to see the `watered down’ case counts for the year (see The Silence Of The Egyptian MOH), even though the World Health Organization released a statement earlier this week saying:


H5N1 infections in Egypt

The sudden increase in the number of H5N1 human infections in Egypt that began in November 2014 and continued during January and February 2015 awakened concern. From the start of November to 23 February, Egypt reported 108 human cases and 35 deaths. The number of cases over this period is larger than yearly totals reported by any country since human H5N1 virus infections re-emerged in late 2003.


The WHO’s statement, and updated case counts, have been noticeably absent from Egyptian media coverage.  The last MOH statement that included YTD cases was more than 5 weeks ago (see Egypt’s MOH Confirms 21st H5N1 Case).


Since the WHO’s most recent tally for 2014 showed Egypt with 31 cases and 9 deaths - even allowing for minor adjustments - one can deduce we must be somewhere in the vicinity of 75-80 cases and well over 20 deaths already for 2015 (based on numbers that are more than a week old). 


Yet today’s article continues to quote numbers from a Cairo Post report of February 14th (33 cases & 11 deaths) that at the time, was already far behind FluTracker’s 2015 Global WHO & Ministries of Health Confirmed H5N1 Human Cases List, which showed 53 cases, and at least 17 deaths.


While the flow information from the MOH to the Egyptian media may be less than desired, the good news is the Egypt continues to update the World Health Organization under the IHR, the MOH has asked WHO to consult on this outbreak, and our NAMRU-3 team in Cairo is – at last report – still assisting the Egyptians in their epidemiological investigations


Despite large surge in  cases, so far we’ve seen no evidence of large clusters or human-to-human transmission of the virus.   The risk of infection still appears to be through contact with infected birds.

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