Egypt, China Report New Human Cases of Avian Influenza

By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population and China’s Ministry of Health have reported on new verified infections in their countries, bringing the total number of human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza to 288, with 170 deaths.

In China, the 15th person of 24 infected there since 2003 has died from H5N1 bird flu virus. The case was confirmed by the national laboratory and reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) March 29.

The 16-year-old male from Anhui province developed fever and pneumonia-like symptoms March 17, was hospitalized March 20 and died a week later. So far, there is no evidence that he had contact with sick birds before becoming ill. Investigations continue to identify the source of exposure.

In Egypt, over the past five days, the Ministry of Health and Population, with confirmation by the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory and U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 in Cairo, has announced five new cases in children.

Three cases, announced April 2, included a 4-year-old boy from the southern governate of Qena, a 7-year-old boy from Sohag governorate in southern Egypt, and a 4-year-old girl from Al-Qalubia governorate, according to WHO.

Two cases, announced March 28, included a 6-year-old girl from Qena governorate (the sister of the 4-year-old boy whose case was reported April 2) and a 5-year-old boy from Menia governorate in central Egypt.

All five children are being treated and are in stable condition; their close contacts are under surveillance.


In the United States, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is awarding $23 million a year for seven years to establish six centers of excellence for influenza research and surveillance.

The centers will expand NIAID’s flu surveillance program internationally and in the United States, and will bolster flu research in key areas, including understanding how the virus causes disease and how the human immune system responds to infection with the virus.

“The threat of an influenza pandemic is a major source of concern for the public health community,” said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci in an April 2 statement.

The centers, he added, “will help expand the federal government’s existing international and domestic influenza surveillance efforts, further our understanding of influenza viruses, and generate the information and tools necessary to better prepare and respond to a pandemic situation.”

The new awards build on a program led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee and initiated by NIAID after the 1997 Hong Kong outbreak of highly pathogenic avian flu in people – the first reported human cases of H5N1.

Under the program, researchers conducted surveillance of flu viruses in aquatic birds and live bird markets in Hong Kong, helping shed light on the natural history of flu viruses. Scientists also conducted training courses in animal flu surveillance, developed diagnostic tools to detect animal flu viruses and generated viruses for use in developing human flu vaccines.

The new centers’ work will include determining the prevalence of avian flu in animals that routinely come into close contact with people; understanding how flu viruses evolve, adapt and transmit infection; and identifying immunological factors that can determine whether a flu virus causes mild illness or death.

Some centers will monitor for international and domestic cases of animal and human flu to detect and characterize quickly viruses that might have pandemic potential and to create vaccine candidates targeted to those viruses.

Ultimately, the studies will lay the groundwork for developing new and better control measures for emerging and re-emerging flu viruses.

All research findings generated by the NIAID centers of excellence will be used to support the pandemic influenza preparedness and response efforts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). NIH is an agency of HHS.

For more information on U.S. and international efforts to combat avian influenza, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

Additional information on avian and pandemic flu is available from the U.S. government.