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EAD specialists begin taking precautions against avian flu

posted on 29/08/2007: 1788 views



Specialists at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) - have begun to take precautionary measures against the avian influenza, also known as bird flu. According to Dr Maan Ahmed Al Hakim, unit leader of biosecurity at EAD, from the middle of September, migratory birds are expected to pass through the UAE, some of them possibly carrying the virus.

"From next month, migratory birds would be leaving the cold northern regions to travel towards the south, and the Gulf area is half way down their journey," explained Dr Hakim. He told Khaleej Times that EAD has set up 57 monitoring sites throughout the country, 47 of them being in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

"We monitor the birds when they arrive and we also take samples to make sure they are not carrying the H5N1 virus. In case we do find an infected bird, we take immediate high measures, isolating the area and raising awareness among people not to make contact with these birds," said Dr Hakim.

A bird suffering from avian influenza is usually recognised by its changed behaviour, such as not being able to fly properly. "As soon as we spot any dead bird or one that shows signs of infection, we take it to our lab for further tests," mentioned Dr Hakim. He pointed out, though, that during the migration season last year no cases of bird flu were found. "Usually the problems don't come so much from wild birds as they do from domestic ones," added Dr Hakim.

In order to stop the spread of the disease, the World Health Organisation had already limited the poultry trade between affected countries.

In the UAE, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Committee for Emergency Response to Bird Flu, has ordered earlier this year that no poultry products carried by individuals be allowed into the country."This means that any live birds, poultry meat, eggs and even feathers carried by someone entering the UAE will be confiscated,", explained Dr. Hakim.

The only exception to the rules is falcons, widely used by the Emiratis. "In case someone wants to import a falcon, he or she will have to obtain a health certificate for it and on top of that the bird will be kept in quarantine for four days, with follow-up checks for another 26 days," mentioned Dr Hakim. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)

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