Dead poultry in Saudi tested for bird flu

According to local media reports, veterinary authorities are carrying out tests in order to determine whether poultry found dead in a farm in southwestern Saudi Arabia were infected with the bird flu virus.

It seems that samples from the poultry at a farm in Surat Obaida, south of Khamis Mushayt in the Asir region, have been sent to a laboratory for tests as a precautionary measure.

It appears that at present bird flu is not suspected and local veterinarians say a more common flu is the likely cause.

The farmer apparently notified the authorities when some of the poultry became sick and died within three days.

He and his family were admitted to hospital for medical check-up while authorities disinfected the site.

Measures to prevent any outbreak of avian flu in Saudi Arabia have been ramped up with the Ministry of Agriculture intensifying monitoring of some 500 poultry farms in various parts of the country.

Just two weeks ago the Kingdom banned live bird imports from Romania and Turkey where the deadly strain of H5N1 avian flu has been detected, and also stopped imports from Iran which has also been listed because of the outbreak of a suspicious disease.

The Kingdom has also banned the import of poultry and its products from Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia as part of the precautionary measures.

Next door neighbour Yemen last month identified Newcastle disease as the cause of chicken deaths which had also prompted public fears of a possible bird flu outbreak there.

Newcastle disease, caused by a potentially deadly virus for birds but not dangerous to humans, is not related to avian flu.

Yemeni newspapers said that large numbers of chickens had died, and according to officials public concern has led to a 20 percent drop in poultry sales.

Yemen with a population of 19 million people, has about 5,000 poultry farms and 70,000 tons of local poultry and another 80,000 tones imported meat are consumed annually there.

According to health officials there had been no bird flu cases in Yemen.

Last week the Gulf region was warned by Bahrain of the risk from bird flu following an emergency meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh to draw up a common strategy to combat the virus.

GCC states have adopted individual measures to prevent the spread of the avian flu, including banning the import of birds, poultry and their products mainly from countries in Asia and Europe where cases have surfaced.

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