April 21, 2009 / 9:22 PM / 11 years ago

Egyptian boy dies of bird flu

CAIRO (Reuters) - A six-year-old Egyptian boy has died of the H5N1 bird flu virus, the 24th human fatality of the disease in Egypt, state news agency MENA said on Tuesday.

Ali Mohamed Ali Somaa from Qalyubia died of respiratory failure, Egypt’s first bird flu fatality of 2009, MENA quoted a health ministry spokesman as saying.

Somaa had been admitted to hospital in late March.

The spokesman also said Ahmed Ramadan Kamal el-Din, a 4-year-old boy from Sohag province, had contracted bird flu and was in hospital. The boy was being treated with the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Kamal el-Din was admitted to hospital on Saturday suffering from fever after exposure to dead poultry suspected of having died of bird flu, MENA said. He is in stable condition.

The new infection brings to 67 the number of bird flu cases in humans in the most populous Arab country, which has been hit harder by bird flu than any other country outside Asia.

Egypt has seen a surge in human cases in recent months, with 16 confirmed since the start of the year, compared to seven cases between January 1 and April 17 last year.

While the H5N1 avian influenza virus rarely infects people, experts say they fear it could mutate into a form that people could easily pass to one another, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.

Most infected Egyptians 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.

The World Health Organization said this month it was concerned some Egyptians may carry the bird flu virus without showing symptoms and this could give the virus more of a chance to mutate to a strain that spreads easily among humans.

Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni; Editing by Charles Dick

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