H5 influenza viruses in Egypt

01 Jun 2021
El-Shesheny R, Kandeil A, Mostafa A, Ali MA and Webby RJ

For almost a decade, Egypt has been endemic for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) viruses. In addition to being catastrophic for poultry production, A(H5N1) has also caused 359 human infections in the country (∼40% of global cases), with 120 being fatal. From 2017, A(H5N1) viruses have been gradually replaced by HPAI A(H5N8) viruses seeded from Southeast Asia through Europe; no human cases have been reported since. This lack of human cases is not a consequence of fewer H5 infections in poultry. Despite governmental outbreak control, the number of avian influenza outbreaks has increased since 2006 partially fueled by noncompliance with preventive measures and suboptimal vaccination programs. Adherence to control measures is low because of social norms, especially among women and children-the main caretakers of household flocks in rural areas-and declining public awareness in the community. Egypt has thus become an epicenter for A(H5) virus evolution, with no clear resolution in sight.