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Tue 8 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Governments respond to spread of bird flu

The UAE government acted swiftly in October to try to prevent bird flu from entering the country.

The UAE government acted swiftly in October to try to prevent bird flu from entering the country. By the end of the month, around 1,000 birds had been tested by the relevant authorities, but none had been found to be carrying the virus.

Nevertheless, the authorities are taking no chances. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries banned imports of poultry and related products, including hatching eggs, from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Romania and all Asian countries. Some aspects of the decision were criticised by the Emirates Poultry Producers Association (EPPA).

Dr Hussain Hassanin, technical secretary at EPPA, claimed the UAE’s import ban on hatching eggs will cause a shortage of poultry and said the organisation is appealing against the decision. “The UAE needs 60 million eggs [per month] to produce the chickens people eat. But our farms here produce only 20 million eggs,” the Gulf News quoted Hassanin as saying.

The ministry has stood its ground and has taken additional measures. For example, Abu Dhabi authorities told all poultry shops to stop selling live chickens and to destroy all live birds. There were also reports that all residents had been told to destory pet birds or hand them over to the authorities.

Flocks of migratory birds are being watched closely, shorelines are being monitored and workers returning from infected countries may even be subject to medical inspections. Poultry farms are also observing stringent guidelines on health, safety and hygiene.

“The department, in cooperation with the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has established this strategic plan to fight bird flu,” said Khalfan Bin Gaith Al Muhairbi, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipality and griculture. “Observation of immigrating birds is very important considering that they may be the biggest carriers of the virus.”

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