Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Mysterious virus

A new unidentified virus killed three people in Shubra Al-Kheima, causing residents to panic

Mysterious virus
Mysterious virus

The results of medical tests done on patients recently stricken with a mystery virus will be announced within the next few days. Minister of Health and Population Ahmed Emad made the announcement in a press conference on 20 March after the ministry said three people had died from the virus last week. Eight others are still in hospital.

Infected patients are relatives of two families who live in separate houses in Shubra Al-Kheima in Qalioubiya governorate. Health officials denied reports that the infections were from bird flu.

In an urgent meeting this week, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi requested Emad to provide the patients with the highest level of medical care.

The patients were held in special units in government hospitals in Abbasiya and Imbaba. They are currently undergoing tests to determine what the virus is so that treatment can begin. Symptoms included sudden vomiting, severe diarrhea, intense stomach pains and a general rapid deterioration in health. The patients included elderly people and children who suffered stronger symptoms. Six have recovered after extended medical observation while the remaining two are receiving medical care.

The ministry is still investigating the cause of the infections. A committee of 17 university professors from the Faculty of Medicine as well as epidemiologists from the ministry has been formed to monitor the situation and determine the virus’ origins. “Unfortunately, the ministry is yet unable to identify the virus,” Health Ministry Spokesman Khaled Megahed said.

“The committee has examined patients using advanced medical equipment. Everyone living close to their residence has been examined in order to take proper preventative measures. We are also performing lab exams to determine the nature of the virus,” Megahed said.

Shadia Thabet, a member of parliament’s Health Committee, said the Health Ministry had sent a medical report of the patients to the World Health Organisation (WHO), requesting a determination. “Until now neither the ministry nor doctors of Abbasiya and Imbaba hospitals know why the three patients died. I ask all area residents who might have experienced similar symptoms to head immediately to either Abbasiya or Imbaba hospitals to take all the required precautionary measures,” Thabet said.

According to Thabet, parliament has not decided whether to call Emad to its Health Committee to explain what happened.

Head of the ministry’s Preventative Medicine Department Amr Qandil said the ministry is closely monitoring the patients as well as people who are in direct or indirect contact with them. “As soon as we know the cause of the infection, its nature and type of virus, we will announce it to the public. We have nothing to hide,” Qandil said.

In a related context, more than 3,000 students from 10 schools in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate were hospitalised because of suspected food poisoning after eating school meals composed of cheese and halawa sandwiches. Seventeen students are in hospital while the rest were discharged.

Samples from the meals were taken for tests to determine the cause of the food poisoning.

Some 13.5 million students with a total budget of LE957 million benefit from Egypt’s National School Feeding Programme (NSFP) which has been supported by the World Food Programme since 1968. The programme currently provides meals to 636,000 children in the country. The European Union (EU) is one of the major contributors to school food programmes in Egypt, along with the United States, Germany and private sector donors.

This is not the first food poisoning incident at government-run schools this month. Around 200 students were diagnosed with food poisoning after eating cafeteria meals in two schools in the Upper Egypt governorate of Minya. A few days later, 14 students in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut suffered food poisoning, forcing the Health Ministry to halt the distribution of school meals in the governorate until food safety tests could be carried out.

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