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15-year-old Egyptian girl contracts bird flu

A teenager from Cairo has contracted the potentially deadly bird flu strain, bringing to 34 the number of people to be diagnosed with the disease since it appeared in this country last yearunday.

Maryana Kameel Michael, 15, was admitted to a Cairo hospital on Thursday because she had a fever, Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahin told the state news agency, MENA.

MENA said Michael is in stable conditions after being treated with Tamiflu, a drug that is commonly used to treat the disease. She contracted the virus from domestic birds her family raises at home, MENA quoted Shahin as saying.

Including Michael, 34 Egyptians have contracted the bird flu since February 2006. Of the 34, 13 have died. Most of those infected have been women or girls, who are usually the ones to take care of household chickens and turkeys.

Since the outbreak of bird flu last year, Egypt has been one of the worst-affected countries outside Asia, where the disease originated. It lies on a main route for migratory birds, which are believed to have brought disease from Asia.

Health officials worldwide worry the bird flu strain could mutate into a form that is easily spread from person to person, sparking a pandemic.