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Sri Lanka stops meat imports after WHO bird flu warning

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Sri Lanka has suspended meat imports and doubled monitoring on wild birds to protect the island against bird flu, a World Health Organization (WHO) warned of an epidemic, an official said here on Tuesday.

Thousands of wild birds migrate to Sri Lanka on a yearly basis and officials are worried that they could be carrying bird flu into the country, said Animal Production and Health Department Director Dr. W.K. de Silva.

"We have doubled the number of samples that we collect from wild birds, particularly those that migrate to certain wetlands in Sri Lanka. The department has also suspended meat imports from countries where bird flu incidents have been reported. We will intensify the checks until the WHO warning is lifted," he added.

Suspension of meat imports proved successful during a previous outbreak of the disease.

Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials -- a novel coronavirus in the Middle East.

Last week, the SARS-like coronavirus spread to France, where one patient who probably caught the disease in Dubai infected his hospital roommate.

Officials are now trying to track down everyone who went on a tour group holiday to Dubai with the first patient as well as all contacts of the second patient.

Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them. Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East.

WHO, however, said there is no reason to think the virus is restricted to the Middle East and has advised health officials worldwide to closely monitor any unusual respiratory cases. Endi

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