Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Health will sign an agreement with the World Health Organisation and the Naval American Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) to strengthen surveillance and diagnostic capabilities for bird flu.

"There are no reported cases yet but in case of a pandemic, the UAE must be prepared to service its nation with the required knowledge, shelter, food, medical services and recovery measures. There are risks in Saudi Arabia due to the vast number of religious gatherings there, and the disease is contagious," said Dr John Jabbour, Medical Office, Emerging Disease, WHO EMRU (Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office).

During a recent workshop, Gulf News learnt that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has spent Dh9 Million to cover preventive, curative and lab costs for the avian influenza plan and an upcoming budget will be planned and discussed.

"Along with the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAAD) and 18 other organisations, the Ministry of Health is involved in a national emergency committee to plan for surveillance, response, disease containment and control," said Dr Mariam Al Matroushi, Director Central School Health Department, Acting Director of Disease Control, MoH.

Two laboratories

Dr Najat Rashid, Director of Federal Medical Laboratories, Consultant Clinical & Molecular Biochemist, MoH, told Gulf News that the MoH have set up two accredited laboratories with high levels of protection for bird flu in Shaikh Khalifa Medical Centre and Zayed Military Hospital.


- Rashid explained that avian influenza is usually diagnosed by collecting a swab from the throat during the first few days of illness.
- The swab is then sent to a laboratory, where they either look for bird flu using a molecular test, or try to grow the virus.
- If it is late in the illness, it may be difficult to find bird flu directly using these methods.
- If this is the case, it may still be possible to diagnose bird flu by looking for evidence of the body's response to the virus.