Bird flu in two Kuwait birds a far weaker strain

According to health officials in Kuwait two birds infected with avian flu have been destroyed, but it seems the strain of the virus present in the birds is weaker than the one which has killed more than 60 people in Asia.

The officials say that the birds were carrying the H5N2 form of bird flu, and although that strain is dangerous to birds it is far less virulent than the H5N1 strain responsible for the deaths in Asia which have sparked fears of a global pandemic.

The head of the public authority for agricultural affairs, Sheikh Fahd al-Salem al Sabah, says the problem was dealt with immediately and it was not allowed to spread.

Sheikh Fahd said that when one case was discovered a few weeks ago at Kuwait airport in a shipment of exotic birds imported from Asia, the entire shipment was culled.

Agriculture inspectors apparently found the second infected bird, a migratory flamingo, earlier this week on Kuwait's southern coast.

Mohammad Muhanna, deputy head of the animal resources department at the agriculture authority has also confirmed that the strain was the less harmful H5N2.

The Gulf states are on a high alert for the disease and have banned shipments of live poultry and birds from Asia and other countries affected by the deadly strain of bird flu.

Sheikh Fahd said all humans that handled or potentially came in contact with the diseased birds were tested for bird flu.

Experts explain that Bird flu is split into strains such as H5 and H7, which in turn have nine different subtypes such as as H5N2. Although H5N1 is highly pathogenic and can be passed from birds to humans, there have been no reported cases of human to human transmission.

Health experts have expected migratory birds to carry H5N1 to the Middle East and Africa after it was recently found in birds in eastern Europe.

They fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, just like human influenza. If it does, millions could die because they would have no immunity.

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