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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 17:25 GMT
Egypt orders domestic bird cull
Woman in Egypt carries cage of birds
The economic impact of bird flu can be devastating
The Egyptian government has ordered the slaughter of all poultry kept in homes, as part of efforts to stop the spread of bird flu in the country.

A ban on the movement of poultry between governorates is in place. Measures already announced include a ban on the import of live birds.

Cases of the of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus have been reported in at least 15 governorates.

Officials say there have been no human cases of the disease.

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The government has called on Egyptians to stay calm, and not to dispose of slaughtered or dead birds in the roads, irrigation canals or the Nile River.

Correspondents say the sudden arrival and spread of the disease over the past few days has caused widespread panic among Egyptians.

Economic crisis

The UN has reported that the economic effects of bird flu in Egypt could be devastating.

Demand for chickens has collapsed. The poultry industry provides work for between 2.5 million and 3 million Egyptians, the UN says.

Talib Murad Ali, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's regional officer for animal health, told the Reuters agency that countries like Egypt would be particularly hard hit economically.

"Worldwide poultry accounts for about 20% of the animal protein consumed. But in Egypt it was 45-50% of all meat and fish and it was a third of the price of red meat. It's the only protein to which the poor have access," Mr Ali said.

The first cases of H5N1 on the African continent were confirmed last week when the virus was found in Nigeria.

The disease has spread west from South-East Asia. Cases have also been confirmed in Europe.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 90 people since early 2003, mostly in South-East Asia.

The virus can infect humans in close contact with birds. There is still no evidence that it can be passed from human to human.

Experts, however, fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Egypt
22 Dec 05 |  Country profiles


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