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H5N1 strikes poultry in Romania, Saudi Arabia

Romanian veterinary officials today reported an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in backyard poultry at a town in the Danube delta, while Saudi Arabia’s agriculture ministry announced a new outbreak at an egg farm in a town south of Riyadh, the capital.

According to a report filed today with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Romanian outbreak occurred at a farm near the town of Tulcea, in the country’s eastern Danube delta. The outbreak killed 31 poultry, and the remaining 49 birds were destroyed. The affected flock consisted of hens and ducks, the Associated Press reported today. The outbreak is Romania’s first since June 2006, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Romania is the seventh European country to report an H5N1 outbreak this year, according to previous news reports.

In October, the FAO warned that apparently healthy ducks and geese in Europe could be harboring the H5N1 virus. Jan Slingenbergh, the FAO’s senior animal health officer, had said that the agency was particularly worried about the areas of Europe near the Black Sea, which have high populations of chickens, ducks, and geese and are a wintering area for migratory birds from Siberia and other locations. He said Romania’s Danube delta has about 4 million domestic ducks and 4 million domestic geese, a density similar to that of Asian countries where the virus is endemic.

In Saudi Arabia, officials said today that the country’s latest H5N1 outbreak occurred at an egg production facility in Al-Kharj governorate, south of Riyadh, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. All 216,000 birds at the farm will be culled, and farmers have been asked to block migratory birds’ access to barns, feed warehouses, and drinking water, the KUNA report said. The ministry said the latest confirmation pushes the number of recent H5N1 outbreaks in Saudi Arabia, which began on Nov 12, to 14, KUNA reported. One of the outbreaks occurred at a poultry market on the outskirts of Riyadh, according to a Nov 20 Reuters report. The H5N1 outbreaks come at a difficult time for Saudi Arabia, which is expecting a large influx of visitors from around the globe for the annual hajj pilgrimage season. (cidrap.umn.edu)

See also: Nov 28 OIE report on Romanian H5N1 outbreak