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WHO Says Risk of Spread Remains Low in Egypt H5N1 Outbreak

January 16, 2015
Public Health

Initial studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest the H5N1 bird flu virus which claimed its second victim this year in Egypt has not undergone any major genetic changes that would make transmission to humans easier.

In a report on the outbreak scientists said; “Although all influenza viruses evolve over time, preliminary laboratory investigation has not detected any major genetic changes in the viruses isolated from the patients or animals compared to previously circulating isolates.”

The WHO have confirmed 18 cases of H5N1 were reported in Egypt between 4th December and 6th January with seven people still receiving treatment. The recent increase in cases is thought to be due to lower public awareness of the condition in the middle-east and a number of seasonal factors including the closer proximity of people and poultry as well as the ability of the virus to survive longer in cold conditions.

Despite the recent death of a 65 year old woman from the city of Asyut in the countries central province experts still believe the risk of community level spread is low. The first human infection with H5N1 occurred in Hong Kong in 1997 since then the virus has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa.

Figures released by the WHO last October showed there were 393 deaths associated with the virus between 2003 and 2014.