7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

GCC plans crisis talks on bird flu

GCC health officials will gather in Bahrain to discuss how to prevent bird flu spreading through the Gulf.

The meeting could take place by the end of the year and is being held shortly after Saudi Arabia culled millions of birds following an outbreak there.

It will focus on measures already in place to

prevent avian influenza sweeping the region and what more can be done to reduce the threat.

"The date is still to be finalised, but we are keen for it to be held towards the end of this month or early next year," Health Ministry communicable diseases section head Dr Muna Al Mousawi told the GDN.

The GDN reported last month that Bahrain was on high alert after the Saudi outbreak and was vaccinating around 1,000 poultry workers against regular flu to help build up their defences.

Dr Al Mousawi revealed the World Health Organisation (WHO) had been closely monitoring the outbreak in Saudi Arabia and its readiness to fight the disease, which can be fatal to humans.

"The WHO has also officially communicated to us to re-activate our plans should the disease spread to our borders," she said.

However, she added that the WHO had told the Bahrain government it was "quite satisfied" with the country's national plan for controlling any pandemic, if it occurs. The WHO is also reviewing contingency plans in the region.

"WHO experts are in touch with the Health Ministry as well as the Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry on the steps which are being taken," said Dr Al Mousawi.

She said that several workshops and seminars have already been held to prepare health workers and more were on the way.

"All the GCC countries are part of the WHO international network and they are all sharing information about avian flu that they have," she said. Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE have already taken measures following the Saudi outbreak and have stopped importing Saudi poultry.

Dr Al Mousawi said that Bahrain was expected to remain free of the deadly virus, but stressed that was no reason to be complacent.

A special ward has been set up to receive possible bird flu patients at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, which she said is well-stocked with the latest machines and state-of-the-art equipment.

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