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The National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development is testing migratory birds for bird flu virus H5N1 and has called for this year's wild bird hunting season to be banned, says its director-general Abdel-Aziz Abou Zenadah.

He adds that Saudi Arabia has set up an inter-agency committee to face the threat of bird flu and is taking special precautions ahead of January's annual hajj pilgrimage, when two million Muslims — many from parts of Asia where H5N1 is circulating — will visit Mecca.

The health ministry says that if bird flu arrives, measures to contain it would include travel restrictions, closing schools and quarantining those affected for seven days. Saudi Arabia has ordered US$6.6 million worth of the flu drug Tamiflu, which will be given to health workers in Mecca if an outbreak occurs there.

Saudi Arabia has also stopped importing birds and poultry products from 20 countries.

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