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H5N1 Spread on Arabian Peninsula

Recombinomics Commentary
November 21, 2007

Bird deaths have been registered in several Saudi regions, as well as in a number of regions in Yemen.

Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have stopped importing Saudi poultry products as a result of the outbreak, and large-scale culls of birds have taken place in the UAE, according to the local Gulf News newspaper.

The above comments suggest widespread H5N1 infections are being detected on the Arabian peninsula.  Thus far only Saudi Arabia has filed an OIE report detailing four outbreaks to the south and west of Riyadh (see satelite map).  However local media has described addition outbreaks in suburban Riyadh.

Local media had previously described domestic poultry deaths at multiple locations in Yemen and earlier reports had mentioned H5N1 infection in backyard flocks in central Egypt.

The above report indicates UAE has also initiated large scale culls, further supporting widespread infections in the area.

Although infections are expected at this time of the year because of migratory bird movements, this is the first report of cases over such a wide area.

In 2005, only Egypt reported H5N1, and the reported cases were limited to one healthy teal.  In late 2006, only Egypt reported outbreaks in the region.

The reports of H5N1 in multiple locations in multiple countries on the Arabian peninsula weeks before pilgrims arrive for the Haj, remains a cause for concern

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