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Bird flu reaches Egypt; France may be next

Associated Press
Published February 18, 2006


CAIRO - Tests confirmed the deadly strain of bird flu in Egypt, as France reported a probable first case Friday and the United Nations expressed growing concern about the virus' spread through West Africa.

Egypt reported Friday that 18 to 20 dead birds had tested positive for bird flu. A U.N. official said tests confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain that has swept out of Southeast Asia into Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Egypt's health ministry was preparing to declare a state of emergency, the government said.

The French agriculture ministry said Friday that it found the nation's "probable" first case of H5N1 bird flu virus in a dead wild duck. The ministry said tests confirmed that the duck found in the southeast Ain region had H5 bird flu and that it was believed to be the deadly N1 strain. Further tests were being conducted, the ministry said.

Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau told reporters Friday night that there was a 90 percent chance that it was H5N1, adding that he expected confirmation over the weekend.

Bird flu has killed 91 people in Turkey and in Asia since 2003, with most victims infected directly by sick birds, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists fear the H5N1 virus could mutate to a form more easily passed between humans and spark a human flu pandemic.

Germany confirmed 10 more cases of avian flu in birds Friday and warned state governments to brace for the disease to spread through the country. They followed three previously confirmed cases of H5N1 in Germany.

Officials in Denmark and the Netherlands were testing dead wild birds Friday and warned it was only a matter of time before the disease reached their countries.

Vietnam is allowing commercial farms to resume hatching and restocking chickens since there have no bird flu outbreaks among poultry over the past two months, Hoang Kim Giao, deputy director of the agriculture ministry breeding department, said Friday.