We are coming up on six weeks since the last World Health Organization update on Egypt (see WHO H5N1 Update For Egypt – Thru March 31st), more than 3 weeks since the last FAO interim report (see FAO Reports 6 More Egyptian H5N1 Cases), and Egypt’s MOH site has provided little information now for more than 3 months.
Although the Egyptian press remains filled with with avian flu stories – they are, ironically, all focused on America’s bird outbreak – not their own.
Doing her best to keep track of all of this is Sharon Sanders at FluTrackers, who curates their Egypt - 2015 WHO/MoH/Provincial Health Depts H5N1 Confirmed Case List. Based on the information currently available, Sharon conservatively shows 143 cases in Egypt since the 1st of January. But that number is roughly 3 weeks old.
How many cases there really are – and how many have been recorded (but not yet publicly acknowledged) over the past 6 weeks – well, that’s anyone’s guess.
In Mid-March a joint mission of the WHO, FAO, NAMRU, CDC, and others were invited to Egypt to observe the situation on the ground and make recommendations. A report was produced and provided to the Egyptian government, but I haven’t found it published anywhere.
A summary report was briefly posted on the EMRO website on May 3rd, but was removed without explanation within hours. Why? I have no idea.
With warmer temperatures now well entrenched across the Middle East, it is possible the number of human infections has dropped appreciably over the past 6 weeks and the outbreak is on the wane. We normally expect to see fewer outbreaks in poultry, and human infections, during the summer months.
But without timely and credible reporting from the Egyptian MOH, that’s an assumption that is difficult to make.
I fully expect we’ll see an update from the FAO or the WHO in the coming days, and that should give us some kind of clue as to how the H5N1 outbreak is trending in Egypt. Assuming, of course, the Egyptian MOH is being completely forthright with their reporting to these international agencies.
It is a worrisome trend – one we’re seeing both in China with H7N9 and Egypt with H5N1 (and no doubt, other nations as well) – where nations strategically `manage’ the release of disease outbreak information, likely for political, societal, or economic reasons.
As we discussed in The New Normal: The Age Of Emerging Disease Threats, the reality of life in this second decade of the 21st century is that disease threats that once were local, can now spread globally in a matter of hours or days. Vast oceans, and extended travel times no longer offer the protections they once did.
A disease threat anywhere can quickly become a health threat everywhere.
Making the full and timely disclosure of infectious disease outbreak information a global responsibility for every nation.