Photo: Reuters
Bird flu (Archive photo)
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
Nightmare comes true?
Photo: Reuters
Fear: Bird flu reaches Israel
Health Ministry's biggest concern realized Thursday evening in two southern kibbutzim: Initial tests conducted following high mortality rate of turkeys raise suspicion that poultry died from bird flu
Israel's biggest health concern in the past few weeks has been realized: A high mortality rate has been discovered among turkeys for fattening in two southern kibbutzim, Holit and Ein Hashlosha.


Agriculture Ministry officials reported Thursday evening that the chicken coops have been put under complete closure and that an initial laboratory test raised the suspicion that the poultry died as a result of bird flu.


A closure has also been imposed on the movement of birds, vehicles and people that have been in contact with birds in the two kibbutzim.


Birds have been dying in the two kibbutzim one after the other. The kibbutz members feared that the dangerous virus was involved and sent samples to be tested.


The residents are waiting for the Health Ministry's orders and are currently forbidden to come near the area.


Yitzhak Edelstein, Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha's farm coordinator, told Ynet that "at the moment the veterinary services are debating on what should be done. We have been renting our chicken coops to different companies, and the kibbutz does not operate them. So far we have no idea how the birds were infected."


He added that the community was not in panic.


Itzik Cohen of the Poultry Breeders Organization tried to calm the Israeli public down.


"The danger to human beings can only appear following direct contact with the birds, and those who have been in direct contact with them will be medically supervised. We estimate that the flu came from wandering birds passing through Israel," he said.


"There is still not need to start immunizing people. In addition, if this poultry was marketed as food, there is no danger to human beings who will eat them," he added.


Immediate danger


The fear of bird flu has also been reported to the Health Ministry. Only last week, the Health Ministry issued an updated bird flu preparation procedure. The procedure, which was first published a number of months ago, was updated following reports on the discovery of the deadly epidemic in Israel's neighboring countries, Turkey and Egypt.


"The risk of bird flu reaching Israel is immediate," the Health Ministry had declared.


"In light of a further spread of the bird flu virus to eastern Europe, the quick spread of the virus in Turkey and the fear that the

disease would be transferred by wandering birds, the risk of bird flu in the State of Israel is immediate and requires accelerated preparation for this threat," the updated procedure read.


In the procedure, written by emergency experts in the Health Ministry and in other institutions, the experts estimate that in case the bird flu epidemic breaks out in Israel, about 1.8 million people are expected to be infected. In the former procedure, the numeral estimation was 1.6 million people, while higher infection rates are expected among children.


Up to 6,000 deaths expected


According to mathematical models, a sick person is expected to infect another two people on average. According to the report, the breakout will reach a high that will last between eight to six weeks, and it is impossible to estimate how many times Israel will be attacked by the epidemic.


The procedure goes on to predict that the epidemic may result in 2,500-6,000 deaths in Israel, and the estimation is that in light of the violence of the bird flu virus (H5N1), the mortality rates may be even higher.


The hundreds of thousands of patients are expected to fill the hospitals and community clinics. According to estimates, between 10,000 and 26,000 patients will be hospitalized across the country, and between 600,00 and 1.3 million patients will be treated at community clinics.


The report also says that many hospital employees are expected to be absent from work after being infected with the disease themselves or due to their fear of being infected.


The Health Ministry's document defines six stages for the epidemic's breakout. In the first two stages, the virus appears among animals.


Today, according to the procedure, Israel is at the third stage, according to which bird flu cases have been discovered among human beings in the world and are randomly being transferred between people outside Israel. In the next stages, the virus may reach Israel and human beings may be infected by being in contact with sick poultry.


Later on, a bird flu strain that will be directly transferred between human beings may develop. In a later stage, the infection of human beings will be more significant. In the sixth stage, an epidemic in which millions across the world and in Israel will be infected may develop.


According to the report, Israel's move to the next stage may take months or may occur much faster.


In the meantime, a suspicion of bird flu infection was raised Thursday morning after a 38-year-old man working around birds arrived at a Haifa hospital. The man has been suffering from high fever for more than a week now as a result of the flu and apparently also pneumonia.


The hospital did not take any risk. At first, the patient was examined in an isolated area of the emergency room. At the end of the checkup, the patient was transferred to a hospital unit where he was hospitalized in isolation until doctors determine what he is suffering from.


Anat Barshkovsky and Ahiya Raved contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 03.16.06, 18:45
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