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UAE remains bird flu-free as first case hits Jordan

posted on 25/03/2006: 1372 views



The deadly bird flu virus, which has killed more than 100 people worldwide, has not been found in the United Arab Emirates, the Vice-Deputy Prime Minister and head of the National Falconry Club has confirmed.



The H5N1 strain of the virus has caused fatalities in the region in countries such as Iraq and Turkey, and the latest outbreak in Jordan was confirmed yesterday – but the virus has successfully been kept out of the UAE, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan said.



The Sheikh said the success in fighting the virus, which has passed to humans who have come into contact with living birds carrying the disease, was largely due to the efforts of the UAE National Emergency Response Committee for Bird Flu, a special body set up in response to what has become a global health crisis. But the Sheikh warned that the UAE could fall victim to a sudden outbreak of the unpredictable disease despite safeguards.



He said: "We are trying our best to fight this fatal disease, but no-one can prevent sudden outbreaks, because disease spreads everywhere. Despite all our efforts, we cannot prevent any sudden outbreak, but [there is] no bird flu in the UAE [at this time].” Avian flu has killed just over half the humans that have contracted the disease and 103 people have now died worldwide. The virus cannot pass easily from one person to another, but scientists fear it could mutate, triggering a pandemic.

Experts in the United States have confirmed the H5N1 virus has evolved into two genetically distinct strains, a development that could increase the risk to humans, as well as complicating the search for an effective vaccine.



Millions of birds have died or been destroyed by authorities as a result of outbreaks in tens of countries since the H5N1 strain first emerged in Southeast Asia in 2003 before spreading to Europe and Africa. Sheikh Hamdan called upon countries in the Gulf region to band together and provides a unified defence against bird flu for the protection of their citizens and economies. (Emirates Today)



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