Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Tests indicate that Egyptian woman died of avian flu

AP , CAIRO AND JERUSALEM

Initial tests at a US Navy lab show that a 35-year-old woman who died this week in Egypt had bird flu, officials said. If the results are confirmed, she would be the country's first known human death from the disease.

The Cairo lab found that the woman, who died on Friday, had the H5N1 strain, lab spokesman Andrew Stegall said on Saturday. The WHO will conduct further tests in an effort to confirm the findings, said Hassan el-Bushra, WHO's regional adviser for emerging diseases.

Egypt's health minister, Hatem El-Gabali, said earlier that the woman -- from the area of Qalyoubiya, north of Cairo -- was raising poultry at her home and some of her birds also died, according to the official news agency MENA.

Police identified the woman as Amal Mohammed Ismail and said she was hospitalized in the regional capital, Qalyoub, about two weeks ago. She subsequently was transferred to the Cairo Fevers' Hospital, where she died.

Official confirmation of Egypt's first cases of H5N1 in poultry last month sparked a slaughter at poultry farms across the country. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif urged Egyptians to halt the practice of raising birds at their homes.

Meanwhile Israeli veterinary officials yesterday proceeded with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands turkeys and chickens as new tests came close to confirming Israel's first outbreak of bird flu.

Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Dafna Varisca said ``it's very close to 100 percent'' sure that the virus has spread to Israel.

The Cabinet devoted its weekly meeting yesterday to the outbreak, while veterinary officials dressed in protective suits continued the systematic slaughter of poultry in four farming communities suspected of being hit by the virus.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to form a task force within days to handle compensating farmers for their losses. Damage is expected to run into millions of dollars.

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