The Haifa District Physician, Prof. Shmuel Rishpon, confirmed Thursday that a deadly strain of the bird flu virus has infected chickens at a petting zoo in a Binyamina kindergarten.
Earlier Thursday morning 18 of the 25 chickens in the kindergarten's petting zoo, were found dead.
"The virus was identified as H5N1 bird flue," said Rishpon, adding that humans that contract this strain have only a 50% survival rate.
Rishpon commended the kindergarten teacher for her decision not to discard the dead chickens but rather to call a veterinarian, who sent samples of the poultry's blood to the Health Ministry for further testing.
"The kindergarten staff has been given preventive medicines and as far as we know, none of the children or their parents came in contact with the birds.
"The virus can only be transmitted by direct contact," he added. "We have alerted the hospitals in the area to look out for any children or adults coming in with bird flu-like symptoms."
Veterinarian Gilad Goldstein, who was called to the scene, told Ynet he was called in due to an unusual number of deaths in the petting zoo.
"It was obvious that some sort of epidemic hit the petting zoo, which made me suspect either NVD (Newcastle Disease Virus – a viral infection in birds) or the bird flu… knowing there was a bird flu alert in the area, I sent blood samples to the Health Ministry."
Aryeh Zitouni, head of the Binyamina-Givat Ada Regional Council, told Ynet that "at this point we know the disease has not spread further… the hatcheries in the surrounding areas have been fumigated and we are still waiting to hear whether or not we'll have to put down all the poultry within a two-mile radius."
The Agriculture Ministry announced it was putting all chicken coops and hatcheries within a six-mile radius under quarantine, since its lab reports confirm the chickens found dead in a Binyamina kindergarten died of bird flu.
The Health Ministry has opened a pubic hotline for information about the outbreak – 972-3-6951541. The hotline will be operational until 5pm (GMT).
Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to this