UPDATED-Woman, child die of bird flu in Egypt, five deaths so far this year

An Egyptian woman and child died of H5N1 bird flu, the health ministry said on Monday, the fourth and fifth persons to die of the illness in the country this year.

The six-year-old child died in Minya province on Monday evening, after a 47-year-old woman succumbed to the disease in Assiut province earlier in the day, ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said.

Both Assiut and Minya provinces are rural areas that have seen a number of bird flu cases in the past year.

The ministry announced one other case in treatment, bringing the total number of cases in Egypt to 20 this year so far. This includes five deaths as well as six recoveries and nine cases still under treatment, Abdel Ghaffar said.

The World Health Organization says there has been a jump in the number of H5N1 infections in people in Egypt, but that there does not appear to have been any major genetic change in the flu strain to explain the rise in human cases.

At least 10 people died from the disease in Egypt in 2014.

The WHO said last week that between Dec. 4 and Jan. 6 there were 18 new laboratory-confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection in Egypt, including four deaths, the highest ever monthly number of human cases in the country.

The WHO says that whenever bird flu viruses are circulating in poultry, there is a risk of sporadic infections or small clusters of human cases.

Egypt's H5N1 cases have largely been in poor rural areas in the south, where villagers tend to raise and slaughter poultry themselves. 

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