Riyadh: The United States embassy in Saudi Arabia issued a warning to its citizens living in the Kingdom to be vigilant of a possible outbreak of bird flu, while the Saudi authorities denied reports of avian virus cases in the country.
In a community message posted on its website, the embassy in Riyadh urged Americans to keep themselves updated by checking the latest news on the websites of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of Health and Human Services' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The US embassy said Saudi Ministry of Agriculture recently reported that five falcons at a veterinary centre in Riyadh tested positive for the H5 virus. "This virus is part of a group of Avian Influenzas, of which the N1 is the only known strain of human concern. We have no indication at this time that these falcons had this N1 strain," it said.
The embassy also informed US citizens that the Saudi ministry killed and burned 37 falcons in an effort to contain the spread of the disease.
"Further laboratory tests are being conducted to determine if the five cases involved the N1 strain. The Ministry of Health examined and tested all exposed workers, none of which showed any symptoms of avian flu. The exposed workers have not been quarantined," the message said.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health denied reports that there were bird flu cases found among human beings in the Kingdom.
Dr Yaaqub Al Mazru, undersecretary for preventive medicine at the ministry, said there were rumours that the deadly virus was found among two citizens of the country and samples have been sent for checks to the WHO laboratory in Geneva.
Incidentally, "the WHO has no laboratories for avian flu tests in Geneva".
Call to kill birds
Police cars and ambulances drove through the streets of Amara yesterday using loudspeakers to warn residents of the southern city to kill their birds amid fears that bird flu was spreading in Iraq.
The avian virus, which has already claimed the life of an Iraqi teenager, was previously thought to have been confined to the girl's village. But the WHO said on Tuesday, the Iraqi Health Ministry had reported a new suspected human case in the southern city of Amara.