May 10, 2009 / 8:28 PM / 11 years ago

Egyptian girl contracts bird flu, 69th case

CAIRO, May 10 (Reuters) - A five-year-old Egyptian girl has contracted the highly pathogenic bird flu virus after coming into contact with infected birds, the state news agency MENA reported on Sunday.

The case brings to 69 the number of people confirmed to have contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Egypt, which has been hit harder than any another country outside Asia.

While the avian influenza virus rarely infects people, experts say they fear it could mutate into a form people could easily pass to one another, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.

MENA, citing the Health Ministry, said the girl from Sohag province was admitted to hospital on Saturday. It said she was being treated with the anti-viral drug Tamiflu and was in a stable condition.

Some 26 Egyptians have died after contracting the virus.

Most of those infected had come into contact with infected domestic birds in a country where roughly 5 million households depend on domestically raised poultry as a significant source of food and income.

Last month, Egypt ordered the culling of all the country’s 300,000 to 400,000 pigs as a precaution against the new H1N1 influenza strain, also known as swine flu.

The World Health Organisation on Sunday reported 4,379 people in 29 countries have been infected by the new virus. No cases have been reported in Egypt. (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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