Four Bangladeshi workers who had been culling chickens infected with bird flu were admitted to hospital in Kuwait with flu-like symptoms yesterday, the health ministry said. "The four men are members of the teams combating the disease and have been involved in culling chickens. They were admitted to hospital over suspicions they might be infected," ministry spokesman Ahmad Al-Shatti told AFP. Shatti said it was not the first time that anyone had been admitted to hospital to be kept under observation for the disease.
A total of 22 people have so far been admitted to the infectious diseases hospital for monitoring before being discharged after testing negative. The spokesman said there was greater concern for the four new admissions, however, as they had been handling infected fowl. A total of 106 cases of the strain have so far been confirmed in birds.
Earlier yesterday, the health ministry said that bird flu hit a new commercial poultry farm leading to the culling of at least 200,000 more egg-laying chickens. Authorities said on Saturday that they have culled 1.5 million fowls, including 1.1 million egg-laying chickens in three commercial poultry farms in Wafra, south of Kuwait City on the Saudi border. The new culling raises the number of layer chickens culled to 1.3 million, which represents about 75 per cent of the state's total. Kuwait also has 32 million broiler chickens, for eating, but no bird flu case has been found among them.
Since the outbreak was first reported on February 25, Kuwait has slapped a total ban on the import and export of birds and closed down bird markets, as well as hundreds of shops that sell live chickens and the state's only zoo. In November 2005, Kuwait announced the first case of a bird infected with the deadly H5N1 strain - a flamingo at a seaside villa. The H5N1 strain, the most aggressive form, has killed more than 170 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and seen millions of birds destroyed. H5N1 is an avian influenza subtype with pandemic potential, since it might ultimately adapt into a strain that is contagious among humans.