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Egypt Says Third Person Dies of Bird Flu


Another victim of bird flu has died in Egypt, becoming the country's third human fatality from the disease since it was first discovered there less than two months ago.

A 16-year-old girl died Thursday in a town north of Cairo, just a day after she checked into a hospital with a high fever and shortness of breath. The state news agency says her illness was already too severe for doctors to help her.

She was the 11th person to contract bird flu in Egypt, and the third to die of it.

Like the two other Egyptian women who died of disease earlier, the girl is reported to have been raising poultry in her home and had apparently been in contact with dead birds.

The disease has only spread directly from birds to humans, but specialists fear it could mutate into something far more contagious, creating a major human epidemic.

Many Egyptians raise chickens and pigeons, especially in rural areas, where the birds often live practically in people's homes. Assiut University veterinary medicine professor Talaat Khatib says that has to stop.

"The main problem, which is facing the Egyptian people in the villages, is it is easy to spread influenza flu from birds to human beings [when] they are living in deep contact with the birds in the same places," he said.

The government has ordered everyone except large licensed poultry farms to slaughter their birds. Some poor villagers have kept their small flocks in defiance of the government ban, usually because their families are dependant upon them for food and income. Most of the people who have contracted bird flu in Egypt fall into that category.

Professor Khatib is calling for a major campaign to educate villagers about the dangers of refusing to change their behavior. He says Europe and the United States should financially support developing countries such as Egypt as they fight off the disease.

"If we are not controlling the disease in the developing countries, I think the influenza will be distributed all over the world, in developing and developed countries," added Professor Khatib.

Egypt sits on the route for migrating birds as they travel between Africa and Asia.

The World Health Organization says avian influenza has killed 108 people worldwide since the epidemic started in Asia in 2003.

The first case in Britain has now been confirmed. A dead swan found in Scotland has tested positive for the H5N1 strain.