Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia has banned the import of chicken and other birds from Turkey and Romania and other countries with a bird flu outbreak. The decision is aimed at preventing the disease from spreading to the Kingdom, according to Undersecretary Assistant of the Ministry of Agriculture for Animal Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Sheehah.
The Ministry was cooperating with the International Organization for Animal Health and remained informed about the latest locations of the pandemic so as to halt importing birds, eggs, and chicken from these areas.
Meanwhile, the representative of the World Health Organization in Riyadh, Dr. Awad Abu Zaid announced that up until Tuesday the Kingdom was free from bird flu with no cases of infection in humans or birds reported so far. Speaking to Asharq al Awsat, he said government ministries were working together to combat the dangerous virus. The Ministry of Health had taken all the measures necessary to ensure the disease would not be transmitted to humans, while the Ministry of Agriculture was inspecting poultry farms across Saudi Arabia .
So far, the disease has affected areas in South East Asia but not spared the Middle East . The Ministry of Health announced a national program to combat the virus and was stocking up on antiviral drugs to counter any outbreak.
Experts fear the H5N1 virus, which has killed more than 60 people and caused the death of millions of birds in Asia since 2003, could mutate and spread amongst humans creating a pandemic that might kill millions of people.
For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture is conducting a survey of all farms around the Kingdom and analyzing the flight paths of migrating birds. Measures have also been put into place to contain the disease and in case it is discovered.