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Second Egyptian dies from bird flu virus

Written by: Staff

CAIRO, Mar 28 (Reuters) A second Egyptian has died from the bird flu virus, Egyptian Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali said today.

An official from the World Health Organisation (WHO) told Reuters the second Egyptian victim of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain was a woman who had been in a critical condition on a ventilator before her death this morning.

''This is the second death due to bird flu in Egypt,'' Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted Gabali as saying.

The woman was from the town of Qaloubiyah, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Cairo, in the same province as the first Egyptian fatality.

Egypt said yesterday a fifth person had caught what appeared to be bird flu but was treated with Tamiflu -- the drug used to fight bird flu in humans -- and was in good condition.

The government has previously said four people have been confirmed to have been suffering from the bird flu virus, which was first found in February among birds in Egypt. The first human infection appeared in mid-March.

Two of the Egyptians the government has said contracted bird flu were released from hospital on Sunday after responding well to treatment.

The first human death in Egypt from bird flu, which has spread across Asia, Africa and parts of Asia, was reported on March 18. The dead woman 30 years old woman and reared chickens at her home north of Cairo.

Although hard to catch, people can contract bird flu after coming into contact with infected birds.

Scientists fear the virus, which has killed around 100 people worldwide since 2003, could mutate into a form that could pass easily between humans, triggering a pandemic in which millions could die.

WHO officials say Egypt has a good bird flu monitoring network in place with officials present in every province but public awareness of how to avoid bird flu has to be raised.

Most of Egypt's cases so far have been among people who raise poultry in their backyards and many are not following instructions from the Health Ministry, the officials say.

Farmers in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous state, say the poultry market -- worth about 17 billion Egyptian pounds (3 billion dollar) and supporting up to 3 million people -- has been devastated.

Reuters PDS VP0140

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