Egypt reports four new bird flu deaths

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt reported on Wednesday four new deaths from bird flu, taking to seven the number of people that the H5N1 virus has killed in the country so far in 2014.

The latest deaths from H5N1, a strain that has killed more than 400 people worldwide since first appearing in 2003, were reported in the North African country in the past two weeks.

Over the same period the number of cases of H5N1 infections in Egypt had doubled to 14, health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghafar told AFP.

All were in rural areas.

State news agency MENA said the newest death, that of a 26-year-old man, occurred on Sunday in Minya, around 235km south of Cairo.

H5N1 is one of several deadly or potentially deadly strains of bird flu that are closely monitored by the World Health Organisation.

The strain is different from the H5N8 version, whose spread on European poultry farms in recent days has prompted calls for vigilance from the WHO.

Most deaths from the strain worldwide have been in south-east Asia.

A third strain of bird flu - H7N9 - has killed more than 170 people since emerging in 2013.

The strains are named for varying subtypes of two proteins on the surface of the virus - haemagglutinin and neuraminidase - that help determine its risk to humans.