WHO supports Egypt during severe influenza outbreak

The World Health Organization recently announced the conclusion of a mission to support the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population's response to a severe influenza outbreak in Egypt.

Egypt recently reported a high prevalence of severe cases of influenza. The WHO team assigned to Egypt said that it believes the outbreak is due to the low rate of influenza prevalence the past two years, which has not allowed many Egyptians to develop a resistance to the virus.

"We believe that only about 20 percent of the world's population were infected by influenza A H1N1 pdm2009 virus when it first appeared in 2009," Dr. Anthony Mounts, the leader of the epidemiological WHO mission, said. "The surveillance system in Egypt has also documented that the virus has not circulated widely in the country for the last two winters. That means that a large majority of the population is still susceptible, and we know that influenza A H1N1 virus, as opposed to other subtypes of influenza, disproportionately affects younger adults with underlying medical conditions, and it can hit those people hard."

The WHO team went to Egypt to observe clinical practices and improve methodology. Mounts said the peak of the season has likely already passed and the outbreak was likely due to a natural increase in viral prevalence, not improper disease control practices.

The WHO team said it will work with the MoHP in the near future to conduct influenza strain diagnoses.

"We are working with the MoHP on surveillance, detection and response to all infectious disease events, not just those influenza-related," WHO Representative in Egypt Dr. Hank Bekedam said. "We stand ready to provide further support as needed."