KUWAIT CITY – The deadly strain of bird flu that has devastated poultry and killed more than 60 people in Asia has been detected in a bird in Kuwait, the first known outbreak of the virus in the Gulf region, an agricultural official said Friday.
A second bird, a falcon quarantined at the airport, had the milder H5N2 strain, he said. On Thursday, officials had said the bird in quarantine was a peacock. Both birds were culled.
Bird flu has ravaged poultry flocks throughout the region and jumped to humans, raising fears that it could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human and cause a global pandemic. The H5N1 strain has killed at least 64 people in Southeast Asia -- two-thirds of them in Vietnam -- since late 2003.
The Middle East region has been worried about possible outbreaks because the region sits on important migratory routes for birds. Migratory birds have already spread the virus to Russia, Turkey and Romania. But the flamingo in Kuwait was the first case of H5N1 reported in the Gulf region.
Kuwaiti officials said there were no indications of any bird flu symptoms among humans and poultry and eggs from local farms were free of the disease.
In his initial comments on Thursday, Al-Mihana had said that tests indicated the birds were infected with an H5 bird flu strain, but there was no need for further tests to determine more specifically whether it was the lethal H5N1 stain. But on Friday, he said he had not had the full information about the tests when he spoke to the AP a day earlier.
All tests were carried out in Kuwait, he said.
Teams fumigated farms and bird markets and are surveying locations where birds stop on their migration from Asia to Africa.