Bird Flu in Egypt: 24 Provinces out 26 confirmed Cases
Government Response to Bird Flu Insufficient:
According to independent Egyptian health experts government measures to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus are insufficient.
Raouf Hamed of the National Organisation for Drug Control and Research said "Action in Egypt to tackle the problem has been confused and chaotic." Moataz Billah Osman, researcher at the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, echoed this sentiment, noting: "Although international health crises are difficult to manage, the government should have done more during the period leading up to the arrival of the virus in Egypt."
Bird flu has spread to birds in provinces in the south and west of Egypt. Fourteen provinces out of the country's 26 now have confirmed cases of the virus in birds, up from Wednesday's total of 11.
Government said a campaign has been launched that will include mosque sermons to raise awareness about the virus.
State television has also been broadcasting public service announcements outlining symptoms of birds suffering from the H5N1 virus and advice on how to dispose of any infected birds.
Dozens of poultry workers protested outside parliament on Thursday against the government's decision to close down poultry street merchants while the virus is still a threat.
A group of MPs on Tuesday ate a meal of chicken outside parliament to try and reassure Egyptians that eating the meat was not a danger to their health.
Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza said on Wednesday Egypt's government will buy all healthy chickens offered for sale by farmers until late March in a bid to support farms hard hit by the outbreak of bird flu.
Demand for chicken has collapsed since the deadly H5N1 virus was first identified in chickens in Egypt last week.
A U.N. expert said The impact of culling and the fall in chicken sales could be severe because the industry, which was worth about 17 billion Egyptian pounds ($3 billion) in investments, supports between 2.5 million and 3 million people.
Many Egyptians have reacted with alarm to news that the virus has been spreading and rumours that dead chickens suffering from the disease have been culled and thrown into the Nile, polluting what is virtually Egypt's sole water source.
A bird flu hotline was receiving about 3,000 calls every five minutes after the water rumours emerged but the number has since dipped to 1,500. The government says the Nile waters are safe.
Photo: An Egyptian worker sits at an empty shop that usually sells chicken in central Cairo days after the first cases of bird flu were detected in Egypt. The sudden outbreak of avian influenza in Egypt has dealt a huge blow to the poultry industry, in a country which consumes 800 million birds a year and exports to the entire region.(AFP/Khaled Desouki)