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Homeland Security

MIDDLE EAST: Swine flu update

DUBAI, 6 May 2009 (IRIN) - Confirmed cases of influenza A/H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, have been reported in Israel, which is among 21 countries to have officially reported cases. No cases have been reported elsewhere in the Middle East, though the region has been adopting preventative measures.

Egypt

- Egypt has ordered the culling of its entire pig population (estimated at 300,000) despite the World Health Organization (WHO) saying there was no evidence the animals had transmitted swine flu to humans.

- Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali, has ordered a psychiatric hospital near Cairo airport to be converted into a quarantine centre for passengers suspected of having the disease.

- Health minister said on 4 May he would discuss with his Arab counterparts the possibility of delaying `Umrah’ - the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca.

Iraq

- Authorities to set aside US$30 million to combat any outbreak; medical checks for all visitors at airports and border crossings being stepped up.

- Workshops, courses being held nationwide for relevant ministry employees on how to monitor and report the disease.

- Kurdistan Region has warned people not to travel to South America, Mexico, USA.

- Nationwide ban on hunting of wild pigs.

- Three wild boars in Baghdad zoo put down on 2 May as precautionary measure, said head of Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Directorate Sabah Jassim Mozan.

Israel

- Israel has recorded its fourth case of the A/H1N1 virus - a 20-year-old woman from Holon who recently returned from Mexico.

- Health Ministry urges other passengers from Iberia flight 3752 to "voluntarily quarantine themselves".

Jordan

- Officials from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met on 3 May to assess the risks posed by the hunting of wild pigs, according to Nasser Hawamdeh, assistant secretary-general of the Agriculture Ministry.

- Health Ministry spokesperson Hatem Azrui said a swine flu hotline has been launched.

- Government shut down five local pig farms on 29 April (800 animals); half the pigs will be slaughtered and the rest moved to areas away from the population, officials said.

- Jordanian and Syrian officials have assessed the risk posed by stray dogs along the border.

Lebanon

- Health Ministry on 30 April issued advice on the use of face masks, the need for regular hand-washing with soap, and avoidance of large crowds.

- Government bans import of pigs and pork products, saying on 29 April that any shipments from blacklisted countries would be destroyed.

- WHO office is preparing leaflets for distribution over the coming days at the airport, the port and by NGOs working across Lebanon.

Occupied Palestinian territory

- Palestinian Authority health minister Fathi Abu Mughli says there is full cooperation with Israel on preventative measures.

Saudi Arabia

- King Abdullah called on 4 May for additional measures to protect citizens and residents from swine flu.

- Flights from countries where cases of the virus have been reported will not be rescheduled or postponed.

- Chairman of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Abdullah Ruhaimi has said special screening measures are in place at the kingdom's four airports.

- Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabiah said the country had adequate stocks of Tamiflu.

United Arab Emirates

- Dubai airport officials say they are working closely with the health department to detect suspected cases of swine flu.

- Thermal imaging cameras were installed at Dubai International Airport to screen passengers arriving from affected areas.

- Health Ministry issued a swine flu bulletin on 4 May, to be updated daily.

- Sharjah international airport to install thermal imaging cameras.

- No ban on pork products, according to Majid al-Mansouri, secretary-general of the Environment Agency, but some supermarkets have removed pork products from their shelves.

(Sources: National health ministries, WHO, international, regional and local media websites.)

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