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UAE to launch probe into bird flu falcon culls in Saudi Arabia

posted on 30/01/2006: 1438 views

Top UAE authorities will investigate reports that 37 falcons were culled over the threat of bird flu in Saudi Arabia before contemplating any further action. "We only heard [yesterday] about this news, and I expect now our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries – which is the leading body that co-ordinates efforts with international groups in this regard – to handle this,” Abdulnasser Ali Alshamsi, the director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi Terrestrial Environmental Research Centre said.

"Until this case Saudi was not on any blacklist.” On Saturday Saudi authorities announced they had culled 37 falcons after five tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu. As of December 29, 2005, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention listed Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, People's Republic of China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine as being countries with infections worthy of embargo.

Alshamsi explained that the circumstances surrounding the avian flu case in Saudi Arabia could make a difference in deciding any course of action. "We need to know if these animals were local, if they had been brought into the country from elsewhere, if so, where they came from, if they came in contact with any other birds within the country, etc,” he said.

The United Kingdom avoided being put on the bird flu blacklist when its lone bird flu victim – a parrot from Surinam – died while it was in quarantine. The parrot had been quarantined immediately on arrival in the country.

UK Society for General Microbiology President, Hugh Pennington, explained to the BBC at the time that the threat was neutralised because the virus was exterminated before any transmission could take place.

Alshamsi said that a country's announcement of its own findings regarding bird flu are usually accepted by other governments without question and a response is formulated immediately. "When there is a problem in a country, we simply recommend no hunters or falcon buyers to travel there,” he said.

It was earlier reported that the UAE had banned all exotic birds and falcons from entering the country and authorities were monitoring the birds through a mandatory registration system. Hunters who take their registered and vaccinated falcons to at-risk or infected countries face quarantine on returning to give any illnesses time to develop under isolation and scrutiny. (Emirates Today)


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