Highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu outbreak reported in Saudi Arabia

The disease outbreak has led to the death of 22,700 poultry, with other 385,300 been culled to curb the virus from spreading

Saudi Arabia reported the outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in its capital Riyadh on Tuesday, February 4. The disease, which only affects poultry animals and cannot be transmitted to humans, was last reported in Saudi Arabia in July 2018, during which its outbreak was contained.

What is H5N8 bird flu strain?

Poultry farm
Poultry farm Pixabay

The outbreak, which took place in a poultry farm, located in Sudair in the central Riyadh region, was reported on February 4, by the county's Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. Ministry spokesman, Dr Abdullah Aba Al-Khail, said that according to the World Health Organization, H5N8 was a strain that only affected birds and could not be transmitted to humans. He added that immediately after receiving the report, field emergency teams attended the farm and implemented standard procedures for dealing with the virus.

The disease has killed 22,700 birds, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday, Khaleej Times reported. In order to curb the virus from spreading, an additional 3,85,300 birds were slaughtered. Saudi officials have assured the public that the disease doesn't pose any risk to human health.

Government's directive

The spokesperson called on the poultry farmers to be vigilant, put in place appropriate preventive measures when dealing with birds, and not to introduce new birds during the current period. He urged Saudis to refrain from hunting migratory or wild birds and inform the Livestock Emergency Room if they come across any suspected case or instances of multiple bird deaths.

Previous H5N8 avian influenza outbreaks reported in Saudi Arabia

The disease was first reported in the country, in 2017, but was contained and didn't pose any major threat. From December 2017 to July 2018, 32 H5N8 bird flu outbreaks were reported in the Kingdom. A total of 264,330 cases were recorded in which over 5.3 million birds were killed and disposed of. The last outbreak in July 2018, was reported in ducks at the Azizia bird market in the Saudi capital.