BAHRAIN's top vet said yesterday there was no reason to panic after the country banned imports of birds from Saudi Arabia.
It followed an outbreak of bird flu at a farm near Riyadh, which prompted authorities there to cull 50,000 birds.
The virus was also detected at two other farms near the capital and around 90,000 chickens had to be culled, but there were no reports of the disease spreading to humans.
However, Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry's animal wealth director Dr Salman Abdul Nabi Ebrahim said yesterday there was no cause for alarm in Bahrain. "If any country has an outbreak of bird flu we ban imports of live birds immediately - that's why we have banned entrance of these birds from Saudi Arabia," he said.
"We take this outbreak seriously and have a big team involved in ensuring that we remain free from bird flu.
"We have people at the causeway working with immigration to make sure no live birds come across."
Dr Ebrahim said Bahrain was conducting research and investigations into bird flu on a daily basis to ensure the country remained safe.
He said a team regularly tested birds at poultry farms and advised farmers about the symptoms of avian influenza.
"Bahrain should be worried because any kind of leak will be dangerous, but we try to fill any gaps," he told the GDN.
"We monitor all birds, poultry farms and markets and take blood or faeces samples from migratory birds.
"These birds start to go from north to south, so we have to monitor them at the seaside and on beaches.
"Up till now Bahrain doesn't have bird flu, but we have to continue researching all the time. If we control all these matters Bahrain will stay safe."
He also said there was no need for people to stop buying poultry in Bahrain.
"We have a national committee to prevent Bahrain from avian influenza and we have all the measures in place so there is no need for people to worry," he said.
Health Ministry communicable diseases department head Dr Muna Al Mousawi told the GDN last week that Bahrain had re-activated its bird flu programme since there was a greater risk of the virus coming to the country in the winter.
That is because of increased migration of birds from colder countries, as well as the virus's ability to thrive during the winter. A special ward was established in March to handle possible bird flu patients and the 18-bed isolation ward at Salmaniya Medical Complex is staffed by four nurses, two chest physicians, two intravenous specialists and two intensive care specialists, who are on duty on a rotation basis.
The ministry has also stockpiled enough anti-flu medication (anti-viral drugs) to treat 25 per cent of its adult population, which is more than the five per cent requirement of the World Health Organisation.