Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses have caused many, typically severe, human infections since the first human case was reported in 1997. However, no comprehensive epidemiological analysis of global human cases of H5N1 from 1997 to 2015 exists. Moreover, few studies have examined in detail the changing epidemiology of human H5N1 cases in Egypt, especially given the outbreaks since November, 2014, which have the highest number of cases ever reported worldwide in a similar period. Data on individual patients were collated from different sources using a systematic approach to describe the global epidemiology of 907 human H5N1 cases between May, 1997, and April, 2015. The number of affected countries rose between 2003 and 2008, with expansion from east and southeast Asia, then to west Asia and Africa. Most cases (67·2%) occurred from December to March, and the overall case-fatality risk was 483 (53·5%) of 903 cases which varied across geographical regions. Although the incidence in Egypt has increased dramatically since November, 2014, compared with the cases beforehand, there were no significant differences in the fatality risk, history of exposure to poultry, history of patient contact, and time from onset to hospital admission in the recent cases.
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