Egypt reports 11th bird flu death

CAIRO (AFP) — An Egyptian woman died from bird flu overnight, bringing to 11 the number of people in the country to have succumbed to the disease, the heath ministry said Saturday.

The death comes only two days after the World Health Organisation in Geneva announced that a medication-resistant strain of the virus was responsible for the last two flu deaths in Egypt.

The latest victim, Warda Eid Ahmed, 27, from Beni Sueif south of Cairo, was hospitalised on January 13 in the Egyptian capital before being diagnosed with H5N1 four days later. Like the previous two cases, Ahmed was treated with the frontline anti-flu drug Tamiflu, but still died.

Health ministry spokesman, Abdel Rahman Shahin, said however that eight of the 19 cases were treated successfully. “The cases which were detected early and treated quickly were all cured. The 11 deaths were victims discovered to be at an advanced stage of the disease,” he told the official MENA news agency. Egypt, which has a population of about 72 million, is the country most affected by bird flu outside Asia with a total of 19 cases.

There has been increasingly alarm in Egypt’s press over the flu, with a number of articles noting that the virus appears to be much more virulent this season. While in last winter’s flu season half of those affected were cured, this time around every one of the four people who contracted the disease has died, which could be linked to WHO’s discovery of a drug resistant strain. “Viruses with a genetic mutation, linked in laboratory testing to moderately reduced susceptibility to oseltamivir [Tamiflu], have been discovered in two persons previously reported with H5N1 infections in Egypt,” the WHO said in a statement.

73 Islamists detained

CAIRO (Reuters) — Egypt has detained 73 Islamists in the Nile Delta pending investigation into what ties, if any, they have with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, security sources said on Saturday.

Deputy Brotherhood leader Mohammad Habib denied his group, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, had any connection to the men in detention.

The security sources said the men, arrested in the province of Manoufiya mostly over the past several days, were members of Salafist groups that follow a conservative purist brand of Sunni Islam.

The daily Al Masry Al Youm newspaper said the detained Salafists were accused of forming a group to support the Brotherhood, especially in elections due later this year for the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament.

It said the detentions of the Salafists had started this month after the Muslim Eid Adha holiday and accelerated alongside an upsurge  in arrests of Brotherhood members in which scores have been detained.

Egyptian authorities launch regular crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood, which operates openly despite being officially banned in 1954.

But some analysts say the government is preparing a wider assault on the group after President Hosni Mubarak said this month the Brotherhood posed a threat to Egypt’s security.

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