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Bird flu scare tests levels of readiness

posted on 03/03/2007: 1701 views

UAE's bird flu emergency response plan went into high gear on Thursday as an Indonesian housemaid got sick after handling dead birds in her employer's yard.

The 31 year-old maid was rushed to the Rashid Hospital Trauma Centre and kept under observation in isolation.

The test results showed she had the common pneumonia.

The head of the infectious disease unit described it as "bad timing". Dr Abdullah Ustadi, the chief, said: "It was a coincidence," that the maid had bird flu symptoms at the same time they found dead pigeons around the house. The dead birds also tested negative after checks by the municipality, he said.

The UAE is on high alert for avian flu after Kuwait reported 41 cases of bird flu in turkeys, falcons, chickens and other birds since February 25. No human infection has been reported in the country.

Dr G.Y. Naroo, specialist senior registrar in charge of emergency department at the centre, said all precautions were taken as listed under the bird flu emergency response plan.

"We kept her isolated and all medical staff attending to her wore special masks and gloves, while we ran tests. Test results showed that it was pneumonia," he said.

He said she was later taken to Maktoum Hospital, where she is recovering.

Health officials said the case showed the readiness to deal with the disease, which has killed 167 people since 2003 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dr Ali Al Marzouqi, director of public health for Dohms, told Gulf News: "We're taking all the precautions to prevent an outbreak."

Dr Ustadi also assured the public that authorities were transparent and would inform them about any issue affecting their health, and asked the public not to spread rumours. "We will not hide anything. If something happens, we have to report to WHO."

The municipality officers asked the public to call 8009990, 04-2232323 and 04-2891114 if they found any dead or sick birds. (Gulf News)


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