UAE bans chicken and egg imports from Saudi Arabia

Outbreak of highly contagious strain of bird flu in Riyadh prompts authorities to act

All species of domestic and wild live birds, ornamental birds, chicks, hatching eggs, meats and meat products and non-heat-treated wastes from the affected region, and from previously infected provinces in Russia are prohibited from entering the UAE. Don Emmert / AFP
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The UAE banned the import of all chicken and egg products from Saudi Arabia following the detection of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu in Riyadh.

The ban extends to all live domestic, wild and ornamental birds, chicks, hatchling eggs, any egg-based products not thermally treated, poultry meat and products not thermally treated, including table eggs.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) announced that it was acting on a notification from the World Organisation of Animal Health.

The highly pathogenic H5N8 strain infected and killed 14 birds at an unspecified location in the Saudi capital, said the organisation on Saturday. Other birds in a flock of around 60,000 exposed to the virus were culled.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been no cases of human H5N8 infection detected, although there have been cases of the related H5N6 in China. Studies of H5N8 viruses have indicated that the virus does not transmit efficiently in ferrets, which are used as a model for influenza infections in humans.

The WHO rates the risk of human infection as low, but not to be excluded.

Bird flu strains have hit poultry flocks in a number of countries across the world in recent years, with some types of the disease also causing human infections and deaths.

Avian or bird flu is caused by a type of influenza virus that is hosted by birds, but may infect several species of mammals, including horses, seals, whales, pig and humans. The virus was first identified in Italy in the early 1900s and has now spread worldwide.

"MOCCAE is carefully scrutinizing documentation accompanying consignments (certificate of origin, health certificate and halal certifications, among others) of food products shipped into the country," the ministry said.

It added that "Saudi Arabia had earlier this year imposed restrictions on poultry imports from countries such as Bulgaria, in an effort to prevent the disease spreading".


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