Nearly 320 Egyptians have been diagnosed with the H1N1 flu virus since December, 38 of whom died after being infected, Egypt's Ministry of Health announced this week.
Many of the cases of H1N1 infection emerged in Egypt after the dramatic drop in temperature -- down to zero degrees Celsius in some areas -- which is unusual in Egypt, said Dr. Ali al-Zaraani, respiratory disease specialist at Qasr al-Aini Hospital in Cairo and member of the emergency committee formed by the Egyptian Health Ministry to follow up on mutations of the flu virus.
The high number of deaths and chronic cases are the result of the virus overpowering the immune systems of people who already suffer from other health problems, he told Al-Shorfa.
The virus "is a type of seasonal flu virus that flares up this time of year, and is active in many parts of the world, including Egypt", he said.
"The Ministry of Health is monitoring and following up on the flu in 450 hospitals across Egypt and in its laboratories in order to trace the path of the flu, ensure it does not mutate and that the appropriate medicine, antibiotics and vaccines are being used to fight it," he said.
The virus has not yet mutated, and "is very similar to the one that surfaced last year and the year before", al-Zaraani said.
The number of infections categorised as advanced -- which include respiratory and pulmonary infections -- is almost identical to the number of such cases diagnosed last year, he added.
The ministry has distributed large quantities of vaccines to deal with these cases, equipped all hospitals with quarantine rooms, and vaccinated all specialised doctors, nursing and quarantine staff, al-Zaraani said.
Respiratory infections specialist Dr. Sayyed Yassin attributed the outbreak of chronic infections this year in Egypt to climate changes and unprecedentedly low temperatures.
Flu symptoms include high temperatures that persist above 38 degrees Celsius, acute respiratory infections, and pneumonia accompanied by muscle and body pain and headaches, he said.
The most vulnerable groups include children younger than seven years of age, adults older than 60 years of age, as well as pregnant women and individuals suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease, Yassin said.
"Although it has kept the spread of the virus in check, the Egyptian Ministry of Health lacks a preventive medicine system to activate in case of an outbreak of virus or an epidemic of pneumonia for example or acute viral hepatitis," he said.
Hospital administrators in the provinces have made considerable efforts to reduce fatalities during this year's flu season, he said, and citizens are taking their own preventative measures to avoid contracting the virus.
Government employee Amer Nabil said he had his entire family vaccinated against the flu this year.
"I also emphasise cleanliness outside the home, especially at school to my children, and my wife and I make the children eat fresh vegetables and fruit, especially oranges for their Vitamin C, which is essential in winter," he told Al-Shorfa.
The Ministry of Education's decision this year to postpone the children's return to school until January 22nd pleased parents who were fearful their children would contract the flu virus, he said.
In 2009, the pandemic H1N1 virus killed hundreds of Egyptians and thousands worldwide.