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The government has banned live poultry sales and is monitoring farms for bird flu virus H5N1, says Majid Al-Mansouri, chair of the national emergency committee set up to face bird flu.

Al-Mansouri is secretary-general of Abu Dhabi's Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, responsible for coordinating the UAE's bird flu plans. The agency is testing some of the two million migratory birds from Asia and Europe that either spend the winter in the UAE or pass through on their way to Africa.

About a dozen potential 'hotspots' have been identified where people, migratory birds and poultry are in close contact. They will be monitored closely for signs of the virus. High-risk employees and travellers arriving from infected areas with bird flu-like symptoms will also be routinely screened for H5N1.

If the virus is detected, authorities will set up a crisis management centre and enforce a quarantine zone around the outbreak to prevent it spreading.

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