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Monday, March 7, 2011     GET REAL

Epidemic in Yemen seen spreading throughout Arabian Peninsula

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia is working to contain the outbreak of a lethal, contagious disease in Yemen.


Officials said the disease has already killed at least 65 people in Yemen, the southern neighbor of the Saudi kingdom. They said the prospect that the disease would spread through Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula was high.

"We have already sent teams to the border area to prepare for any epidemic," an official said.

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So far, officials said the disease has been contained to the western Yemeni province of Hodeidah. They said authorities have identified the disease as chikungunya, symptoms of which include kidney failure, high fever and vomiting.

"Saudi health officials called us and inquired about the spread of a disease in the border provinces," Abdul Hakim Al Khohlaini, an official at the Yemeni Health Ministry, said. "We told them that it is chikungunya and assured them that the disease is under control and far away from the Saudi border."

But the Yemeni report has not assuaged Saudi authorities. Officials pointed to widespread infiltration of Yemenis into Saudi Arabia, which could result in the spread of the disease.

"Some of the dead are very old, and most of the cases haven't been verified by laboratories," Al Khohlaini said.

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