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H5N1 In Falcon In
Saudi Arabia

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

Jeff - Banning live poultry imports is, at this stage of the H5N1 game, not going to stop the spread of the virus. It is too late now as H5N1 high path is in the world's wild bird/migratory bird populations. This time, at this stage, the Genie is out of the proverbial bottle.
From Promed:
According to the ProMED report: "Avian influenza (171): Saudi Arabia, UK (England) 20071114.3701" of 14 Nov 2007, Saudi Arabia has banned all live poultry imports since avian flu was detected in March 2007.
However, if the report by the Gulfnews article (copied below) is confirmed, it appears that the imports of other live birds are still allowed in Saudi Arabia and it highlights the substantial risk of introducing HPAI through the wild bird trade. - Cristiana Senni
From Gulfnews.com
By Emmanuelle Landais
Last week, tests were carried out at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai on a[n imported] wild saker falcon (Falco cherrug) from Saudi Arabia, reported Wildlife Middle East News. The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 was diagnosed in the falcon and it died shortly after being admitted to a falcon hospital in Riyadh. No post-mortem examinations or diagnostic tests [apart from the lab tests in Dubai, I suppose. - Mod.JW] were carried out to establish the cause of death. The falcon showed non-specific signs, including low appetite, regurgitation and passing of green-coloured liquids. According to the report the diagnosis included high white cell count.
Samples have been sent to the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Germany for further virus identification studies. The falcon was part of a large group of wild-caught sakers imported into the kingdom from Central Asia. According to reports, a large proportion of these falcons died showing similar symptoms.
Bird flu was initially detected at a poultry farm in Saudi Arabia and 50 000 birds were culled, the Agriculture Ministry announced on 14 Nov 2007. Tests were carried out after 1500 birds died in a farm in Al Kharj region, 150km [93.2 miles] south of Riyadh.
No human case has been found and an investigation was taking place to determine the origin of the illness.
In April [2007], Kuwait culled 1.7 million birds after the strain was found but there were no reports of human cases [see ProMED efs. (57) & (74) below.]
Avian influenza emerged in 2003 and has caused some 205 deaths in humans.
Communicated by
Cristiana Senni
World Parrot Trust
Saudi Arabia sent the OIE 3 official reports on HPAI during 2007. The 1st one on 31 Mar 2007, notifying the disease in ostriches kept on a private rest house. The 2nd report, submitted 7 May 2007, was a "follow-up report" on the ostrich (regarded by the Saudi authorities as not being "poultry") outbreak. A 3rd report -- an immediate notification abouy 4 outbreaks in poultry farms -- was submitted 19 Nov 2007. It was published in a ProMED-mail post, which included the following Mod PC's query: "As always, the question remaining unanswered is: where did this new outbreak come from? There really is no clue in this report or others so far".
The above information on cases in imported falcons, for which we are grateful to Cristiana Senni, may provide an answer to Mod PC's query; confirmation or otherwise by the authorities is anticipated. If confirmed, these falcon cases should be officially reported. - Mod.AS
Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
Univ of West Indies
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