Government departments have been instructed to keep a close watch and doctors advised to conduct specific tests when investigating suspected cases of  meningitis, encephalitis or any unknown fever, the Oman Daily Observer said on Wednesday.

  

The new measures follow the "limited outbreak" of West Nile Fever in horses in March.

 

Diagnosis

 

The diagnosis was confirmed by the University of Pretoria in South Africa. A national diseases committee made up of officials from the health, agriculture and fisheries ministries met to formulate a response.

  

The committee decided to conduct small sample surveys to detect virus antibodies, if any, in animals and human beings.

  

The Central Public Health Laboratory has also notified hospitals that  testing will be made available for suspected West Nile infection in all unknown cases, the paper said.

  

Officials stressed that to date there have been no instances of infection in humans in the sultanate.

  

West Nile virus, first discovered in 1937 in Uganda, is a mosquito-borne viral infection that can cause fatal inflammation of the brain. The virus' natural hosts are believed to be migrating birds.