Three members of an extended family have died in Egypt after being infected with the H-5-N-1 strain of avian influenza. Since February 2006 there have been a reported eighteen cases and ten deaths reported in Egypt. Worldwide, the total number of cases since 2003 is two-hundred-sixty-one with one-hundred-fifty-seven fatalities.
John Rainford, a World Health Organization spokesman, says that the recent Egyptian deaths were caused by an exposure to sick poultry, in this case, ducks. But if the virus mutates into a form that is easily spread among people, a global pandemic could result and millions of people could be at risk.
Avian influenza has reached more than fifty countries, and millions of chickens have died or been culled to prevent the spread of the virus to other poultry.
The United States has pledged more than four-hundred-thirty-four-million dollars to international efforts to control the spread of avian influenza and to prepare for a possible human pandemic. The U.S. is researching and developing vaccines and anti-viral medications. The U.S. is also working with the United Nations and others to improve surveillance of suspected avian influenza outbreaks.
In 2005, President George W. Bush announced the creation of an international partnership "to detect and respond quickly to any outbreaks":
"A flu pandemic would have global consequences. No nation can afford to ignore this threat, and every nation has responsibilities to detect and stop its spread."
Ambassador John Lange, the U.S. State Department's special representative on avian and pandemic influenza, says, "Preparedness and long-term capacity-building requires collaboration on the international, regional, national and community levels."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.