Confirmed cases of bird flu rise to 50 in Kuwait

The number of confirmed cases of the deadly strain of bird flu has risen to 50, the Health Ministry said Monday, but no humans have been infected nor commercial poultry farms.

"Tests on 200 samples from handlers (of poultry) were negative," the ministry said in a statement. "There are no cases of bird flu in humans so far."

The first H5N1 strain infections in the recent outbreak were announced late February in falcons, turkeys, and chicken. Before that, only one case of the deadly strain had been registered in Kuwait when it was found on a migrating flamingo in 2005.

The infected birds were found in house pens and small farms in 30 locations around the country, the statement said. Commercial-sized poultry farms were under strict control by specialized teams that fumigate them and take samples for tests regularly, it said.

Authorities have closed down the Kuwait Zoo and the bird markets, and banned all imports and exports of birds as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, reports AP.

Bird flu has killed at least 167 people worldwide since it broke out in Asian poultry stocks in 2003.

It remains hard for humans to catch, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among people.

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