In an updated Summary and Assessment from the World Health Organization (WHO) dated Jan. 26, global health officials report 24 new laboratory confirmed human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection, including 11 fatal cases, were reported to WHO from Egypt since Jan. 6.
Of the 24 cases, seven had onset of disease in December 2014 and the rest had onset of disease in January 2015.
Currently, there are reports of an increased number of outbreaks and detections of influenza A(H5N1) viruses in poultry in Egypt compared to previous months and compared to this month in previous years.
The number of laboratory confirmed human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection reported by Egypt in December was the highest reported by any country in a single month.
Preliminary laboratory investigation has not detected major genetic changes in the viruses isolated from the patients or animals compared to previously circulating isolates, the WHO states.
The increase in the number of human cases is likely attributed to a mixture of factors, including increased circulation of influenza A(H5N1) viruses in poultry, lower public health awareness of risks in middle and upper Egypt and seasonal factors such as closer proximity to poultry because of cold weather and possible longer survival of the viruses in the environment.
From 2003 through 23 January 2015, 718 laboratory-confirmed human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection have been officially reported to WHO from 16 countries. Of these cases, 413 have died.