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Homeland Security

20 February 2007

Egypt Reports More Avian Influenza Infections and One Death

World Health Organization describes progress on pandemic flu vaccines

Washington -- Two more people in Egypt have been infected with the highly pathogenic form of avian influenza and one of them has died, as experts meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva report progress in developing pandemic influenza vaccines.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population announced a new case of human avian influenza virus infection February 19. The 5-year-old boy from Sharkia governorate, about 96 kilometers northeast of Cairo, was admitted to the hospital with symptoms February 14 and his condition is stable, according to WHO.

The boy was exposed to sick birds a week before he became ill. Those who have had contact with the boy are healthy and under observation. Egypt has reported 22 human cases of avian influenza since March 2006.

On February 16, the ministry announced the nation’s 13th avian influenza death, a 37-year-old woman from Fayyoum governorate, about 96 kilometers south of Cairo, who was helping slaughter and defeather sick birds a week before she became ill. She was admitted to the hospital February 12.

Both cases were confirmed by the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory and U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 in Cairo.


More than 100 influenza vaccine experts from around the world met February 15-16 at WHO in Geneva to discuss advances in pandemic influenza vaccine development.

According to WHO, 16 manufacturers from 10 countries are developing prototype pandemic influenza vaccines against the H5N1 avian influenza virus. Five manufacturers also are developing vaccines against other avian viruses.

More than 40 clinical trials are complete or ongoing. Most have focused on healthy adults, but some companies, after completing safety analyses in adults, have initiated clinical trials using older people and children.

Results presented at the meeting showed for the first time that vaccination with newly developed avian flu vaccines can stimulate potentially protective immune responses against strains of H5N1 virus found in different geographical locations.

This was the third such meeting in two years to review progress in developing candidate vaccines against pandemic flu viruses and reach consensus on future priority activities. The experts presented information about and discussed more than 20 projects.


Despite the progress, the world still lacks the manufacturing capacity to meet potential global pandemic influenza vaccine demand, since current capacity is estimated at less than 400 million doses per year of seasonal influenza vaccine.

In response, in 2006, WHO launched the Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan to increase vaccine supply, a $10-billion, 10-year effort to help developing countries establish their own flu vaccine production facilities through technology transfer.

As a supporting partner in the action plan, the United States has contributed $10 million to building sustainable vaccine production capacity in developing countries, said Daniel Singer, M.D., senior medical policy adviser for the State Department Avian Influenza Action Group, on assignment from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Health Affairs, in a recent USINFO interview.

“At the time a pandemic starts, there won’t be enough vaccine for anybody,” Singer said, “so the best thing to do is to get as much vaccine production capacity as we can out there because it will reduce the amount of deficit, essentially, that we’re facing in that situation.”

WHO is working with several vaccine producers, mainly in developing countries affected by H5N1, to help establish in-country influenza vaccine production.


Siti Fadillah Supari, Indonesia’s minister of health, and David Heymann, M.D., WHO acting assistant director-general for communicable diseases, released a statement February 16 agreeing that Indonesia would again share avian flu viruses with the WHO Network of Collaborating Centers for Influenza.

Researchers need access to H5N1 strains to develop pandemic vaccines, monitor the virus's evolution and track the global spread of the disease.

Indonesia -- a nation of more than 17,000 islands in the southeast Asian archipelago that has confirmed 81 human cases of avian flu, 63 of them fatal -- announced February 6 that it would stop sharing its H5N1 samples with WHO because it was unfair for other countries to use the samples to develop vaccines that poorer nations could not afford to buy.

“Indonesia’s leadership alerted the international community to the needs of developing countries to benefit from sharing virus samples, including access to quality pandemic vaccines at affordable prices,” the statement read.

In the short term, Indonesia will pursue discussions with vaccine production companies to meet its vaccine needs. In the long term, Indonesia will work with WHO to develop its local vaccine production capacity through technology transfer.

In the statement, WHO agreed to work with the Ministry of Health and other countries to assess and develop mechanisms for promoting equitable distribution and availability of pandemic flu vaccines developed and produced from the viruses.

For more information on U.S. and international efforts to combat avian influenza, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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