Bird Flu Detected In Middle East

A Kuwaiti vendor displays ducks at marketplace in Kuwait City 25 October 2005. Acting Secretary General of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health, Issa Al-Khalifa, told reporters that the ministry would spare no effort in order to defend the country against Bird flu.
Getty Images/Yasser Al-Zayyat
Kuwait has detected two cases of bird flu in birds, a senior official said Thursday, but it was not clear if the virus strain was the deadly version that has devastated poultry in Asia and triggered fears of a human pandemic.

It is the first known case of the disease in the Middle East.

Sheik Fahd Salem Al Ali Al Sabah, the head of the Public Authority for Agriculture and Fisheries, told reporters the first case was discovered at the airport quarantine in a peacock imported from Asia. He did not say which country the peacock came from.

The second case, a flamingo, was found on the beach, the official KUNA agency quoted him as saying.

The official said the country had reported no cases of bird flu among humans.

"Immediate action was taken ... and the situation is under control," Sheik Fahd said, adding the cases were found because of the precautions that Kuwait had taken.

"All of our national production of poultry and eggs are free of the disease," Sheik Fahd said.

In related developments:

  • Authorities in China said Thursday they have quarantined 116 people in northeastern Liaoning province after two new outbreaks of bird flu there. The province has now suffered three outbreaks in less than three weeks despite a massive campaign to contain the virus.
  • The head of the European Union's disease prevention agency said Thursday the risk of bird flu outbreaks has receded in Europe, but warned a second wave of the deadly H5N1 strain is likely when migrating birds return next spring. "I think this virus was brought to Europe by the migrating birds, and quite likely they have already gone further," said Zsaid Zsuzsanna, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
  • The National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief told a Senate panel Wednesday that research suggests the U.S. could stretch its limited supply of bird-flu vaccine. Doctor Anthony Fauci says preliminary testing in 96 people showed that adding the immune-boosting chemical dramatically lowered the required vaccine dose.
  • The World Health Organization on Wednesday estimated that developing vaccines and boosting production of antivirals to fight a flu pandemic will cost about $500 million over the next three to four years. The cost will be in addition to the $1 billion that the World Bank said would be needed to control the current bird flu outbreak and prepare for a possible human pandemic.
  • Vietnam said Wednesday the Swiss maker of Tamiflu has agreed to let the country produce the antiviral medicine early next year, and a U.N. official said a major funding increase could help stamp out bird flu. The agreement with Roche Holding AG would let Vietnam — which has reported most of the 63 known human deaths from bird flu — start as early as next January, said Nguyen Van Thanh of the Health Ministry's pharmaceutical administration department. Vietnam is believed to be the first country to make such an arrangement.
  • China's Premier Wen Jiabao warned Wednesday that the country faces a serious threat from bird flu, since the disease is still not under control despite massive nationwide efforts to stop its spread. Wen, touring the bird-flu affected province of Liaoning in northeastern China, said the effort to stop the virulent H5N1 virus from spreading to humans was "an arduous task," the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
  • Romanian authorities have canceled a fishing ban in the Danube Delta after recent tests revealed no further cases of bird flu in the region, the Agriculture Minister said Wednesday. The ban was meant to reduce the number of people coming into the delta region and was imposed last month after several birds tested positive for the H5N1 subtype of avian flu.
  • In coming days, KFC will have television commercials ready to reassure customers that its chicken is safe to eat if there is a bird flu outbreak. The chicken chain said Tuesday it hopes the spots never have to air, but it's taking no chances in the face of a potential threat to business.