Egypt: Concern over bird flu cases

13-04-2009 | |

The World Health Organisation is concerned that some Egyptians may carry the highly pathogenic bird flu virus without showing symptoms, reports Reuters.

It still needs to be determined whether such cases exist, but this will be the focus of an Egyptian government study backed by the global health body, according to John Jabbour, an emerging diseases specialist at WHO.

“This is a concern only, now. It is a question to be asked,” said Jabbour, adding that a change in the pattern of human bird flu infections this year in Egypt had raised concerns about the existence of so-called sub clinical cases.

The emergence of symptomless human carriers of the virus would be a worrisome development because it could allow the virus, undetected and untreated, more time to mutate inside the human body, Jabbour added.

“If there is any sub clinical case in Egypt, the aim is to treat immediately to stop the reproduction of the virus. Because whether (through) mutation or reassortment, this will lead to the pandemic strain,” he said.

Jabbour said the rise in infections in children without similar cases among adults had triggered questions as to whether adults were being infected with the virus but not falling ill. “There is something strange happening in Egypt. Why in children now and not in adults?” he said. “We need to see if there are sub clinical cases in the community.”

The Egyptian study, which Jabbour said should begin in the coming months, would test the blood of people who may have been in contact with infected birds but had not become sick.

Source: Reuters

Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist
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