updated 12/27/2006 2:55:44 PM ET 2006-12-27T19:55:44

A 26-year-old Egyptian man died of bird flu Wednesday, the third member of his extended family to die of the virus, a World Health Organization official told Reuters.

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Brick factory worker Rida Farid Abdel Halim from the Nile Delta province of Gharbia had been in the hospital for 10 days, said Hassan el-Bushra, WHO regional adviser for communicable diseases surveillance. The province is about 50 miles north of Cairo.

It was the 10th death from bird flu in Egypt since an outbreak of the virus started in February.

Bushra said Egypt had no other bird flu patients receiving treatment. Eight Egyptians had contracted the disease and recovered.

A 15-year-old girl from the factory worker’s family died Monday and a female relative died the day before, raising concerns about the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

But John Rainford, a spokesman at WHO headquarters, said: “The evidence that we have so far seems to be putting it into a context similar to other cases that have emerged since February. ... What we do know so far seems to suggest that the cases do not necessarily stand out.”

The family had raised ducks at home, and two members of the family had slaughtered the flock after ducks fell sick and died.

The man showed symptoms of the disease Dec. 14 and was admitted to a rural hospital three days later. He started receiving Tamiflu treatment on Dec. 20 after a second case appeared in his family and the medical staff learned that he may have come into contact with poultry, Bushra said.

Bird flu has killed 157 people worldwide since 2003, according to the latest WHO figures.

People can contract the virus by coming into contact with infected poultry but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.

This fear heightened in May when seven people in an extended family died of bird flu in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province.

The WHO has said limited human-to-human transmission is highly likely to have occurred in the Sumatra cases but that the transmission was not sustainable and occurred only during close, prolonged contact, such as a parent looking after an infected child.

In Egypt, the outbreak of bird flu did extensive damage to the country’s poultry industry this year, but preventive measures appear to have contained the disease.

Before the latest three deaths, only one person had died of the disease in Egypt since May.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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