Bird Flu Identified in Israeli Turkey Farm, Cull in Process

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A turkey coop in Israel (illustrative)Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Following the discovery of bird flu in a turkey farm in Israel, the Health Ministry has ordered 100,000 birds to be destroyed and buried in an attempt to contain the virus.

The strain in question is H5N1, which is capable of infecting other species – including humans. And cats, pigs and others too.

The sick turkeys were discovered on January 16 at Moshav Aviel, by the town of Pardes Hana-Karkur, which has a population of over 32,000. The Health Ministry confirmed to Haaretz that it has only been discovered at that one site, at least so far.

The first coop, where the sick turkeys were found, was isolated. However, the Agriculture Ministry announced on Sunday that for the sake of caution and in keeping with international procedures when H5N1 is detected, the birds in another coop in Aviel, within the radius of three kilometers of the infected coop, will also be destroyed.

The clinical progress of avian flu is different from other forms of flu, says the Health Ministry. It usually begins with a viral pneumonic condition and can rapidly progress to respiratory failure and from there, to organ failure, though doctors qualify that it can present in different forms, even including digestive problems. The mortality rate from avian flu has been as high as 60 percent, says the ministry.

The probability of bird-to-human infection is remote, however, as the ministry itself says. Only 694 confirmed cases of humans developing H5N1-related disease have been found since it was first identified, in Asia, in 2003. It was then reported in Europe in 2005.

It bears saying though that the number of actual cases could theoretically have been much higher, due to misdiagnosis, no diagnosis at all, and so on.

That said, Israel's pigeon-feeders can rest easy: No case of pigeons contracting the condition, let alone spreading it, is known.

Israel is no stranger to bird flu, which was first discovered here in 2006. The last outbreak in Israel before the present one was in 2012. The Health Ministry points out that not one single human being in Israel has ever been diagnosed with bird flu, at least yet.

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