Thursday, March 19, 2015

Egypt's Handling of H5N1 Outbreak

When attempting to stop a viral epidemic from becoming pandemic, one of the biggest issues is sharing information openly between governments. Government's reporting accurately on the disease status and demanding aid from the UN, WHO, and CDC is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy and safe world. International cooperation and sharing of resources leads to better handling of an outbreak, especially in the 21st century.

Right now Egypt is currently dealing with the largest H5N1 outbreak since the virus was identified in the mid 1990's. Unfortunately, the Egyptian ministry of health stopped regularly reporting updates of the outbreak to the public in November. The last report made on the issue by the WHO was an estimated 66 cases and 13 deaths from H5N1 since the beginning of the year as of March 3, 2015. The WHO states that Egypt's numbers of laboratory confirmed H5N1 infections are the highest ever reported in a single month consecutively from December through February.

On March 16, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN published reports of 17 newly infected individuals in Egypt. Fortunately, the WHO, FAO, and the Egyptian Ministry of Health have  not found ease of transmission between humans. The H5N1 infections have all been associated with exposure to live poultry. Only a few clusters exist that show possibility of human to human transmission, but this is most likely due to environmental exposure within the same family, as opposed to active respiratory transmission between humans.

Because H5N1 infection is highly pathogenic, resulting in approximate mortality rates of 60%, this outbreak deserves close monitoring. The Egyptian government should do everything in its power to increase surveillance and reporting, and if they do not have adequate resources, demand help from international organizations that can provide it.

Let's stay hyper vigilant and hope that this strain of H5N1 continues to be solely transmitted zoonotically

- Marcus Munoz

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