Deadly Bird Flu Outbreak Confirmed in Saudi Arabia

Just when most parts of the world are busy looking for a cure to the Wuhan flu virus, a different kind of outbreak has recently taken place in Saudi Arabia. 

The case was the first outbreak of the H5N8 virus in Saudi Arabia since July 2018.

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Saudi Arabia Confirms Outbreak of Highly Pathologic H5N8 Bird Flu 

According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Tuesday (February 4), the outbreak occurred in the central Sudair region, as shared in a report by Reuters.

In a report shared by the Saudi agriculture ministry, there were already 22,700 birds that were killed while 385,300 birds in the flock were slaughtered.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the disease affects only avian species and is not transmissible to humans.

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA) has posted a tweet regarding the update:

The tweet, which reads: “The Ministry recorded an H5N8 avian influenza infection in a poultry project in the Riyadh region, and emergency teams were able to control the focus of the infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease affects birds and is not transmissible to humans, and this strain was registered in the Kingdom at the end of 2017, and it was controlled.”

Despite this alarming update, the Ministry was also quick to allay any fears noting: “The virus currently registered in the Kingdom is H5N8, and it affects birds only. It is also different from that registered in the country of Vietnam (H5N6), which infects birds and may be transmitted to humans.”

Meanwhile, the H5N6 case in Vietnam was discovered in a village in the northern part of the country, according to a report by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The virus was detected in a flock of 3,000 birds in the village of Duc Yen and directly killed 2,200, the report said.

The new H5N8 case follows the spread of the virus across Europe, carried by migratory birds.

Similarly, outbreaks have been reported in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, and Ukraine last winter.

In the most recent report shared by the OIE, it noted that in the majority of the European countries affected by the epidemic in the winter of 2019, the last occurrence of H5N8 outbreaks was in 2017. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic encountered H5N8 for the first time in their territory during the said period. 

Veterinary Authorities in the affected countries have responded to contain outbreaks in poultry with stamping out measures, heightened surveillance, and recommendations to poultry owners to increase biosecurity. To date, no human cases of infection with HPAI H5N8 have been reported.

In this regard, there is no real reason for panic. Residents in affected regions may opt to avoid eating poultry and related products in the market. However, authorities will place a ban on these products should there be a need for it. The best measure to deal with this situation is to stay updated with announcements coming from authorities and to avoid contact with vulnerable animals, especially when traveling to affected areas.    

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