There are media reports this morning in the Egyptian media regarding three recent H5N1 cases in Sohag, and while I’ve linked to the story below, I would hasten to point out that since January we’ve only been getting the barest glimpse of that country’s unprecedented avian flu outbreak.
The last detailed update from the Egyptian Ministry of Health came on January 22nd, when they announced that in the 1st 3 weeks of the year they’d recorded 21 cases (8 cases of healing, 7 cases under treatment, and 6 deaths). This came on top of roughly 30 cases reported in the last two months of 2014.
Since then MOH statements have become less and less frequent, have lacked detail, and no longer provided YTD figures. Media reports – which relied heavily on MOH updates – tapered off as well, and we began to see `recycled’ numbers used over and over again during the spring.
On April 9th, the WHO reported that Egypt’s YTD tally had reached 125 cases, and 33 deaths, far eclipsing any other H5N1 outbreak previously reported. On May 1st, the WHO released their most recent report (137 cases, 37 deaths), but the last case reported had an onset date of April 6th.
In other words, in what is undoubtedly the biggest human outbreak of H5N1 in history, we’ve not had an official update on new cases in 2 and 1/2 months.
When the last report was issued, cases were being reported at a rate of roughly 10 per week. While a gradual slowdown in cases would be expected in April and May as temperatures warmed, it seems unlikely the flow of infections would have shut off so abruptly, and so completely in the first week of April.
Therefore, the following report is offered more as a reminder that avian flu cases are likely still occurring in Egypt than as any kind representation of the quantity or frequency of such cases.
Jun. 24, 2015 12:45
CAIRO: A 40-year-old woman died of H5N1 avian flu in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Sohag Tuesday, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for preventive medicine Amr Qandil told Youm7.
During the past three month, three new human cases of H5N1 infection were detected, of which one was fatal and the other two are being hospitalized, Qandil said.
Most avian flu cases in Egypt have been detected in impoverished rural areas, where villagers are accustomed to raising poultry on the rooftops of their homes to supplement their diet, Ahmed Abdel Hamed, a former Health Ministry official previously told Youm7.
On March 29, a 27-year-old woman died of bird flu in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Sohag, marking the 15th death in the country from the disease in 2015, Youm7 reported.
You’ll notice that this report – dated today – continues the fiction of only 15 H5N1 deaths in Egypt as of March 29th, when the WHO numbers (released April 9th) showed 33 deaths at that time. More `recycled’ numbers.
` . . . the presence of H5N1 viruses in Egypt with the ability to jump more readily from birds to humans than viruses in other enzootic countries is of concern and requires a high level of vigilance from the Ministries of Health and Agriculture.’
While we can hope that the slowdown in reporting is indicative of a slowdown in actual cases, the Egyptian MOH’s recent track record on H5N1 transparency doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.