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Three human deaths reported as virus spreads
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11:10, December 27, 2007

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Three more human deaths caused by bird flu have been reported in Asia and Africa yesterday, while a third case of a chicken testing positive for the deadly H5N1 virus was confirmed in Germany.

In Egypt, a 25-year-old woman has died of bird flu, the country's Ministry of Health said yesterday.

It is the first human death in Egypt from the virus since June and the 16th since the disease arrived in early 2006.

The ministry named the woman as Ola Younis from Beni Haroun village in Beni Suef province, south of Cairo.

She entered Beni Suef hospital on December 21 with a high temperature and breathing problems, was diagnosed on Tuesday and died the same day, it said in a statement.

Younis had been in contact with birds thought to be infected with bird flu, the ministry said. The state news agency MENA said health officials were checking her relatives to see whether they showed traces of the virus.

The H5N1 virus which causes bird flu tends to lie dormant during the summer and Egyptian officials had hoped that after two years of outbreaks it would not re-occur this winter.

The case brings the total among humans in Egypt to 39.

The death toll is the highest for any country outside Asia and could reflect the high population density in agricultural parts of Egypt.

Meanwhile, bird flu has killed a 4-year-old boy from northern Vietnam, a health official said yesterday, warning that the threat of outbreaks remains high during the winter months when the virus typically flares.

The boy from Son La province tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus after falling ill with flu-like symptoms, said Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Health Ministry's Preventative Medicine Unit. The boy died on December 16 in Hanoi, five days after becoming sick.

Vietnam's latest case comes as other countries in the region also are detecting human infections. Indonesia, the world's hardest-hit country, logged its 94th bird flu death yesterday, while Myanmar and Pakistan earlier this month reported their first human cases. The World Health Organization is investigating whether limited human-to-human transmission may have occurred in Pakistan where several people, including a number of relatives, tested positive.

At least 209 people have died from the H5N1 virus worldwide, according to the WHO. It remains difficult for people to catch, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

In Germany, a third case of a chicken testing positive for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in the northeast state of Brandenburg was confirmed by state authorities yesterday.

A police spokesman in Neuruppin, north of Berlin, confirmed that a chicken on a small farm in the town of Blumenthal in the Ostprignitz-Ruppin district had tested positive for the virus.

All 31 birds in the village were culled. It was the third case in 10 days in Brandenburg, a rural state that surrounds Berlin and is on the border with Poland. There have been eight cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Poland this month.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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