Yemen has identified Newcastle disease, common among fowl but harmless to humans, as the cause of chicken deaths which have prompted public fears of a possible bird flu outbreak, officials said on Saturday.
An official who asked not to be named told Reuters that Newcastle disease and not bird flu was behind the chicken deaths in poultry farms in the Arab country. He declined to give further details.
Newspapers quoted residents in some areas as saying large numbers of chickens had died, and officials said public concern has led to a 20 percent drop in poultry sales.
"Because of the reports of chickens dying, sales have dropped 20 percent in the past six days and we expect that figure to rise," one official said.
Agriculture ministry officials have said there had been no bird flu cases in Yemen, which has about 5,000 poultry farms.
Yemen, a country of 19 million people, consumes an annual 70,000 tonnes of local poultry and imports another 80,000 tones, according to officials.
Newcastle disease, caused by a potentially deadly virus for birds but not dangerous to humans, is not related to avian flu.