A 16-year-old Egyptian girl has died of bird flu, bringing the number of deaths from the disease in the north African nation to 23, the highest outside Asia, the state Mena news agency reported. Samiha Abdul Hafez Ahmed Salem, from a village near the central city of Assiut, died yesterday a week after being admitted to hospital with a high fever, health ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Shahin said. Despite treatment in intensive care she succumbed to a lung infection, the spokesman said.
It was the first death from bird flu in Egypt since April. Egypt has now reported a total of 51 cases of the disease in humans since its first in February 2006. Most of the victims have been young girls or women, who are generally charged with looking after poultry in the countryside. Egypt hosted an international conference on bird flu in October at which Washington pledged an additional US$320m (Dh1.18bn) to the fight against the disease amid fears it may yet escalate into a global pandemic.
The H5N1 strain of the virus that is most dangerous to humans first emerged in Asia in 2003 and has since caused nearly 250 deaths, 113 of which in Asia, according to World Health Organisation figures. Scientists fear that a mutation of the bird flu virus resulting in a strain easily transmitted among humans could create a pandemic, potentially affecting up to one-fifth of the world's population. * AFP