Siblings Of Djibouti Bird
Flu Case Being Tested

GENEVA (Reuters) -- A 2-year-old girl in Djibouti, the first confirmed human case of bird flu in East Africa, is in stable condition while three siblings undergo tests for possible infection, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
Djibouti Health Minister Abdallah Abdillahi Miguil said on Thursday in remarks broadcast on state television the girl had tested positive for the H5N1 virus.
The WHO, a United Nations agency, has accepted as valid the results from the girl's sample tested by a U.S. laboratory based in Egypt, according to WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng.
"Three of her siblings are undergoing investigation for possible infection. Their samples have been sent to the same laboratory," Cheng told Reuters in Geneva.
The family lives in a poor, rural area of the tiny country near the border with Somalia and kept chickens, she added. The minister said the virus had been detected in three birds.
The WHO had sent supplies of the anti-viral Tamiflu, by Swiss drugmaker Roche <ROG.VX>, as well as personal protective equipment to try to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, Cheng said.
"We will send a support team if and when requested by the health ministry," she added.
The girl's symptoms began on April 23 and tests were conducted by the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo on May 10, Cheng said.
The girl remains under medical care in stable condition, Cheng said, adding: "She still has persistent symptoms, presumably fever and respiratory problems."
The WHO's office in Djibouti was helping authorities to tighten disease surveillance in the region, where outbreaks of dengue fever can complicate diagnosis, according to Cheng.
The WHO has confirmed 13 cases of bird flu in Egypt, including five fatalities, where outbreaks began in March.
In all, the WHO says there have been 208 cases in 10 countries, including Djibouti, since late 2003, and 115 deaths.
Experts fear that bird flu could mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, potentially triggering a pandemic in which millions could die.
Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
Univ of West Indies
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