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UAE geared to block bird flu

posted on 27/02/2007: 1612 views



Steps to prevent the deadly bird flu from entering the UAE are in place, with officials advising calm following reports of an outbreak in neighbouring Kuwait.



Kuwait on Sunday confirmed 20 cases of H5N1, the virulent strain of bird flu, in falcons, chickens and turkeys, based on tests conducted by local and laboratory results.



Dr Mohammad Saeed Al Kindi, UAE Minister of Environment and Water, told Gulf News that the UAE was fully prepared to prevent the deadly virus from crossing over. "The National Committee for Emergency Response to Bird Flu is fully prepared with its National Avian Influenza Crisis Management Plan. The committee has made all the necessary measures under the plan.



"We have stringent and effective measures in place at all the entry points - airports, borders and sea ports. All the necessary machineries, such as incinerators, to eliminate the virus and prevent its spread are all available," he said.



He added that the committee is also monitoring and carefully watching bird flu developments worldwide, and has set up several quarantine premises to monitor imported birds and laboratories for testing wild and domestic birds.

Peter Hellyer, ornithologist and member of the Emirates Bird Records Committee, told Gulf News that the group, in cooperation with the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi, would continue monitoring wild bird populations in the country.



"There have been no reports of sick birds in the UAE so far," he said, adding that the group monitors more than a dozen sites, popular with wild birds, weekly for any strange behaviour.



Spring migration of birds is set to begin, with more than 200 known species of birds expected to pass through the UAE, including the dunlin and redshank, on their way north. Hellyer also advised the public not to panic and to exercise normal precautions such as avoiding close contact with wild birds.



Dr Kayan Jaff, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in the UAE, told Gulf News that the organisation regarded the cases in Kuwait as suspected cases, rather than confirmed until another test confirmed the results.



"The Kuwaiti government may have confirmed the cases based on its appearance. Testing does not take a day. It takes 10 to 14 days to get full results," he said. "There is no reason for alarm at this stage, because as we understand it, the cases are isolated and contained." No case of human infection has been reported in Kuwait.



Dr Jaff added that the UAE has a "very strong and comprehensive control system" to protect its people and poultry from bird flu.



The committee charged with bringing about the plan, headed by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, includes the Interior, Health and Environment and Water Ministries, the Armed Forces, municipalities, customs and other departments and environment agencies.



The committee also publishes multilingual pamphlets, distributed through schools, organisations, government agencies, and exhibitions and conferences, to increase public awareness of the health dangers to themselves, their families and their pets. (Gulf News)

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