3 bird flu cases give ‘no cause for alarm’ in Saudi Arabia

The Health Ministry teams did a rapid risk assessment of H5N8. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2018
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3 bird flu cases give ‘no cause for alarm’ in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Three new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) have sprung up in Riyadh, Dammam and Al-Ahsa, but a senior official from the Health Ministry said on Monday there is no cause for alarm since this influenza has not affected anybody in the Kingdom or in other parts of the world.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Aseeri, assistant deputy minister of health for preventive medicine, told Arab News that the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) announced last month that the H5N8 strain of avian influenza was isolated from birds in a local market in Riyadh.
“This strain is highly pathogenic to birds (high death rates) and was first characterized in Ireland in 1983. Since then it has been reported in numerous locations around the world,” Al-Aseeri said.
He added that H5N8 avian influenza has not caused any human infections so far anywhere in the world.
The official said Saudi Arabia is a major route for bird migration and this virus probably got into the country through migratory birds.
According to the deputy minister, the MEWA field teams collected and tested more than 3,000 bird samples, dedicated a 24/7 call center for reporting and public education, performed extensive culling of infected birds in collaboration with the ministry of municipalities and banned commercial bird movements between cities.
The Health Ministry teams did a rapid risk assessment of H5N8. People in contact with sick birds were identified and listed for follow-up. Representative blood and repository samples were collected from people working at the affected sites. All human samples were negative for influenza.
The official said the ministry operates a national influenza surveillance program linked to the World Health Organization global influenza surveillance system.
“Human samples are continuously collected from sentinel sites and tested for various types of human influenza. Non-human influenza strains are suspected when the influenza virus is detected in a human sample but cannot be sub-typed. This has not happened in Saudi Arabia so far,” he stressed.


Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

Updated 5 min 44 sec ago
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Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

  • The president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Shagaf Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey
  • Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back”

CHRISTCHURCH: King Salman’s Hajj offer to host families of those affected by March’s Christchurch terror attacks is “something really special,” said the president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Shagaf Khan.
The Saudi king has offered to host and cover the expenses of 200 Hajj pilgrims when they journey to Makkah this year.
Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey. “For some of them, it’ll be a great comfort feeling like they’ve fulfilled the obligations of being a Muslim,” he added.
Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back.”
When asked what the offer would mean for Canterbury’s Muslim community, Khan said it is part of the solidarity and support that has been shown to them since the Christchurch terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 51 people.
“Four months on … people still feel supported and they feel they’re still being remembered,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Amir, who is working closely with the local community, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy and its Ministry of Islamic Affairs to implement King Salman’s offer, said it will be available for those who had lost family members or been injured in the mosque attacks.
Canterbury’s Muslims are “very appreciative” of the offer, added Amir, who is chairman of the Islamic Scholars Board of New Zealand.
“I’ll say with full confidence that this will be a big relief for the deceased’s families, for the victims, for all those who’ve been injured and affected,” he said.
When asked how the organization of the pilgrimage is going, Amir said “so far, so good,” but added that it has been challenging without official records to track everyone down.
He said it is an honor and a responsibility to help organize the pilgrimage, which he has been helping to plan since the end of Ramadan. “People are very excited about it,” he added.
He said he believed that the king’s offer had been made to help people’s rehabilitation after the terror attacks.
“The community believes he’s going to contribute in building Christchurch and bringing people to a normal life,” Amir added.