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Israel Destroys Poultry After Avian Flu Outbreak
By Robert Berger
18 March 2006
Israel is trying to halt the spread of a deadly outbreak of avian flu. The poultry industry at several collective farms has been wiped out.
Israeli health officials are destroying tens of thousands of turkeys and chickens at four kibbutz farming communities hit hard by the bird flu. Some 16,000 birds have died in the first outbreak of avian flu in Israel.
Dr. Shimon Pokamonsky, the chief veterinarian for fowl diseases at the Agriculture Ministry, told Israel Radio that all poultry within a three-kilometer radius of the infected farms will be destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading. Tractors dug six-meter deep pits to bury the carcasses.
People in the infected areas have been asked to minimize their travels, and cars entering and leaving the farms are being disinfected. Residents are taking it in stride.
"It is business as usual here," says Rami Negbi, from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, adding that health officials say there is little chance of humans contracting the disease. Four farm workers hospitalized Friday with flu symptoms have been given a clean bill of health.
Health officials worldwide have warned that avian flu could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted easily between people, and become a global pandemic.
So far, this is not happening, but news out of neighboring Egypt has Israeli officials worried. The World Health Organization says an Egyptian woman who died this week had bird flu. That is cause for concern here, because officials believe the virus entered Israel from Egypt.
Israel Reports Outbreak of Bird Flu
By Robert Berger
17 March 2006
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Israel has reported its first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. Health officials are taking a series of measures to prevent the virus from spreading.
The Israeli Agriculture Ministry says the avian flu virus killed 11,000 turkeys at two kibbutz collective farms in southern Israel. The deadly virus is also suspected in the deaths of 5,000 chickens at a kibbutz in the center of the country. A six-kilometer quarantine zone has been imposed around the infected areas. The Health Ministry has ordered tens of thousands of birds to be destroyed over the next few days to contain the outbreak.
Three people have been hospitalized on suspicion of contracting bird flu. Health Ministry Director-General Avi Yisraeli sought to calm the public. "The virus affects birds, and it is unlikely that humans will be infected," Yisraeli told Israel Radio. He added that only people who come into direct contact with infected poultry were at risk.
At the same time, he said the Health Ministry is not taking any chances. "We have sent protective clothing and medicines to poultry farmers in the infected areas," Yisraeli said. In addition, four million units of bird flu vaccine have been ordered from Holland.
Avian flu, which first surfaced in Asia, has spread with alarming speed in recent weeks across Europe and Africa. International health officials have warned that the more it spreads, the greater the danger that the virus could mutate and cause a pandemic, in which millions of people could die.
The virus was detected in neighboring Egypt last month, and the disease may have entered Israel from there.
It is the first outbreak of bird flu in Israel, and officials fear it will spread to Palestinian areas, where health standards are lower. In a rare act of cooperation, Israel is testing poultry in the West Bank and Gaza on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Containing the virus is a mutual interest.
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