Kuwait bans Indian poultry and eggs, lifts ban on Mexican chicken products

KUWAIT: Kuwaiti authorities destroyed scores of birds yesterday at the pet market (also known as the bird market) in Rai to prevent the spread of bird flu. The birds were culled and placed in black garbage bags, which were then taken to an undisclosed location to be incinerated. "All the birds here were slaughtered because of bird flu - we won't take any chances," said a vet, who did not give his identity pending an official announcement. Asked if bird flu is dangerous and contagious to humans, he said so far there have been no transmissions of the virus to humans. "The ministry of health will come up with a bulletin on the matter," the vet told Kuwait Times.

All the shops were forcibly closed and customers were turned away as officials from the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) worked in cooperation with the environmental police and officers from the Municipality to eradicate infected and potentially infected birds. Trucks and police cars were on standby at the market. Avian influenza (H5N1), informally known as bird flu, is a viral infection that can infect not only birds, but also humans and other animals. However, most forms of the virus are restricted to birds.

Many shop owners were shocked to hear that their birds were being destroyed. A Bangladeshi shop attendant who had hundreds of birds at his shop, said it was very unfortunate that the birds that were not sick had to be killed. "They had collected birds from many shops. One shop experienced it first, then I heard many birds fell ill and died the following day. This morning the Municipality came to check - the next thing they were killing all the birds to prevent the spread of bird flu," he said.

Kuwait last suffered a major outbreak of bird flu in 2007. On Feb 13, 2007, PAAAFR reported the initial outbreak of H5N1 in poultry in Wafra. Subsequently, 131 influenza virus infected poultry were confirmed from 20 farms throughout the country. The disease resulted in high mortality rates among infected flocks, especially in commercial broiler farms in Wafra and among poultry raised in privately owned residential homes and backyard farms.

Disease control measures were implemented beginning Feb 18, 2007, including control of poultry movement, vaccination, disinfection of infected premises and culling of 500,000 birds. The final case of subtype H5N1 was detected on April 20, 2007, and all restrictions were lifted on May 12, 2007. Kuwait was declared free of highly pathogenic avian influenza on July 21, 2007.

Meanwhile, the Public Authority for Food and Nutrition yesterday said that the ministry of commerce and industry has placed a ban on the import of all kinds of poultry meat (fresh and frozen) and their derivatives from India due to the outbreak of bird flu (H5N1). The ministry decided to lift the ban on the import of all poultry meat (fresh and frozen) and their derivatives, including eggs, from Mexico, which was placed due to the outbreak of bird flu. The ministry also decided to lift the ban on the import of all types of meats (fresh and frozen) from Italy due to the end of the anthrax disease outbreak.

By Ben Garcia