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(photo credit: AP)
A UN official on Friday said tests done on dead birds in Egypt had confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu that has swept out of Southeast Asia into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. There have been no confirmed cases in humans.
Dr. Talib Elham of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Cairo said the disease had apparently moved north to Cairo in an infected turkey that was taken to market in the capital.
Other outbreaks were found in flocks kept in backyard gardens and rooftop coops in Giza, just across the Nile River from Cairo. Positive tests also were reported from birds in the southern Egyptian cities of Minya and Qena.
The Egyptian Cabinet was meeting Friday afternoon and expected to make a public announcement, according to health officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make the information public. They said there had been between 18 and 20 positive test results so far.
Elham said the disease likely had already killed thousands of chickens and turkeys that had not yet been reported to officials.
The government veterinary service said the Health Ministry was preparing to declare a state of emergency.
Egypt is the largest Arab country and the population - which often lives in cramped conditions - depends heavily on chickens and turkeys for food. Millions of Egyptians raise chickens as a source of protein.
The H5N1 strain has killed 92 people since 2003, with most victims infected directly by sick birds, according to the World Health Organization.