Two-year-old boy becomes Egypt’s 56th bird flu case

A two-year-old Egyptian boy has contracted the bird flu virus and is in critical condition, the state-run news agency quoted the Health Ministry as saying on Sunday, becoming the 56th case in the Arab country.The Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted Assistant Health Minister Nasr el-Sayyed as saying the boy, Youssef Abdel-Azim from the province of el-Fayoum in central Egypt, showed symptoms on Wednesday after coming into contact with dead birds.

He was administered the antiviral drug Tamiflu and remains in crticial condition on an artificial ventilator at a hospital in Cairo, Sayyed said, according to the agency.

Egypt is one of the only countries affected by bird flu that does not offer compensation for farmers when poultry is destroyed, which many experts say is the best way to ensure rapid detection of new outbreaks.

Some 5 million Egyptian households depend on poultry as a main source of food and income.

Since 2003, the H5N1 avian influenza virus has infected 408 people in 15 countries and killed 254 of them. It has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds as it spread to 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

While H5N1 rarely infects people, experts fear it could mutate into a form that people could easily pass to one another, sparking a pandemic that could kill tens of millions and topple the global economy.

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