ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: Pakistan has imposed a ban on poultry imports from 13 countries as a precautionary measure against any outbreak of avian flu in the country, an official said on Friday.

Ismail Qureshi, secretary at the ministry of food, agriculture and livestock, said the decision was taken at a high-level meeting which was held to review the situation of bird flu in the world.

The 13 countries whose poultry products have been banned are Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, North Korea, Laos, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, Greece and Romania. Each of these countries has detected strains of the bird flu virus.

At Friday’s meeting officials decided that Pakistan would continue the ban on import of poultry and poultry products from these bird flu affected countries.

A commerce ministry official said that due to the same fear, the United Arab Emirates had recently rejected a poultry shipment from Pakistan carrying around 5,000 birds on the plea that the exporters had not produced certification about the birds being free from disease.

The official said the exporters suffered a huge loss when the same birds were slaughtered by UAE officials.

Pakistan is a major exporter of poultry to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has already banned poultry imports from Pakistan.

Analysts say the scare over the bird flu virus is likely to affect domestic consumption of broiler chicken meat and drastically bring down prices.

The avian influenza can be caused by one of around 23 different strains of virus, all of which are type A members of the Orthomyxoviridae virus family.

The official said all 14 types of vaccines required for immunization of chicks were available in abundant quantity in the province and “every disease is under control”.

The bird flu is a form of influenza believed to infect all birds, though domestic poultry is believed to be especially prone to it. Avian flu also has jumped to humans, though no human-to-human transmission has been reported yet.

Infected birds spread the virus through saliva, faeces, and nasal secretions. So far, only humans with direct contact with sick birds have caught the disease. But scientists are increasingly worried that bird flu could link with regular human influenza, mutate, and become a deadly new virus and trigger a pandemic.

The symptoms in birds include loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, fever, weakness, diarrhoea, excessive thirst and swelling. If the strain is virulent, mortality rate can range between 50 and 100 per cent.

While the symptoms in humans are fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, eye infections, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia.

Updated Oct 22, 2005 12:00am

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