Home Health Egypt gears up to contain bird flu outbreak

Egypt gears up to contain bird flu outbreak

Egypt: Since the initial onset of H5N1 (also known as avian influenza or bird flu) back in 2006, new outbreaks of the flu have occurred every single year, making Egypt one of the world’s few endemic countries for the virus, along with Indonesia and Peru. Hence, through a three-day workshop, three specialists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) familiarised Egypt’s leading researchers, vets and ecologists with GIS, a system designed to capture, manipulate, analyse, merge and present all kinds of geographically referenced data to track the bird flu virus across the country. This workshop is financed by the US National Institute of Health and Fogarty International Center.
GIS merges cartography, statistical analysis and database technology and has proven extremely useful in fighting epidemics and pandemics worldwide, giving precious help to epidemiologists who specialise in tracking viruses. Ryan Harrigan, a postdoctoral student at UCLA, explained, “Everything we do is linking cases of influenza with the environment that surrounds it.”
Harrigan stated that “the reason why these health institutions have a particular interest in funding this training in Egypt is because there is a greater chance that a pandemic will develop in a country where the virus is already endemic, rather than in countries like Cameroon where an outbreak occurred once and then disappeared.”
According to Kevin Njabo, a researcher at UCLA, one of the many reasons explaining Egypt’s vulnerability to bird flu is “the millennial tradition of poultry breeding which dates back to Ancient Egypt.” The fact that most residents in rural areas breed chickens, ducks and geese in their houses’ backyards or rooftops creates an immediate proximity, which explains why most reported cases originate for the countryside. Another decisive factor is what he calls “the constant source of influx of the virus to the population that is increased by the commercial poultry farms selling parts of their production to open air markets.”
Trevon Fuller is the third UCLA researcher who conducted the training session. He observed that the amount of data collected since 2006 in Egypt on bird flu is gigantic, and having this data reflected by the GIS will give an accurate overview of how the virus spread. Not only this, he added, but GIS-based modelling will also bring a vast array of factors together — like density, water presence and altitude of the location — and correlate them, which will help identify the most significant factors that trigger bird flu outbreaks. Njabo explained that identifying the environmental factors will help determine high-risk population centres before the epidemic reaches them because they have similar environmental characteristics as the infected areas. This would mitigate the impact of another potential outbreak.
Source: www.egyptindependent.com