On Christmas Eve, the UAE's Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) officially announced on Twitter that it's banning the import of all chicken and egg products from Saudi Arabia following the detection of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu in Riyadh.

The ban extends to all live domestic, wild and ornamental birds, chicks, hatching eggs, any egg-based products not thermally treated, poultry meat and products not thermally treated, including table eggs.

The MOCCAE announced that it was acting on a notification from the World Organisation of Animal Health.

On Saturday, the organization said that the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain infected and killed 14 birds at an unspecified location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been no cases of human H5N8 infection detected, although there have been cases of the related H5N6 in China. 

The WHO rates the risk of human infection as low, but not to be excluded. Bird flu strains have hit poultry flocks in a number of countries across the world in recent years, with some types of the disease also causing human infections and deaths.

Bird flu is caused by a type of influenza virus that is hosted by birds but may infect several species of mammals, including horses, seals, whales, and humans.

The virus was first identified in Italy in the early 1900s and has now spread worldwide.

"MOCCAE is carefully scrutinizing documentation accompanying consignments (certificate of origin, health certificate, and halal certifications, among others) of food products shipped into the country," the ministry told The National.

It added that "Saudi Arabia had earlier this year imposed restrictions on poultry imports from countries such as Bulgaria, in an effort to prevent the disease spreading".