Hundreds of thousands of cranes and chickens are killed in bird flu outbreak in Israel in what officials say ‘is the deadliest wildlife disaster in the nation’s history’

  • A bird flu outbreak in northern Israel has killed at least 5,200 migratory cranes and forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of chickens
  • Officials say so far there have not been human transmissions 
  • Israeli media said children who had visited the reserve may have touched a stricken crane and thus contributed to the spread of the flu 

A bird flu outbreak in northern Israel has killed at least 5,200 migratory cranes and forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of chickens as authorities try to contain what they say is the deadliest wildlife disaster in the nation’s history.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met his national security adviser and other experts to discuss efforts to contain the outbreak and prevent this ‘mass disaster’ from passing into humans.

So far no human transmission has been reported, Bennett’s office said.

Israeli media said children who had visited the reserve may have touched a stricken crane and thus contributed to the spread of the flu.

 A bird flu outbreak in northern Israel has killed at least 5,200 migratory cranes and forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of chickens as authorities try to contain what they say is the deadliest wildlife disaster in the nation’s history

‘Many of the birds are dead in the middle of the water body so it´s difficult for them to be taken out.’ Uri Naveh, a senior scientist at the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, said while also noting the situation is not yet under control.

About 500,000 cranes pass through Israel each year on the way to Africa and a small number stay behind.

This year, an estimated 30,000 cranes stayed in Israel for the winter.

Wildlife officials in Israel said it is believed that the cranes were infected by smaller birds that had contact with farms suffering from outbreaks.

So far no human transmission has been reported, Bennett’s office said. Israeli media said children who had visited the reserve may have touched a stricken crane and thus contributed to the spread of the flu 

WHAT IS BIRD FLU?

Also known as avian influenza, bird flu is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus. 

Bird flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans. 

There are 15 different strains of the virus. It is the H5N1 strain which is infecting humans and causing high death rates. 

Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk. 

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg called the crisis ‘the most serious damage to wildlife in the history of the country.’

‘The extent of the damage is still unclear,’ she tweeted.

Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a virus that primarily infect birds, but can also infect humans.

The virus often spreads in the fall and winter months as birds migrate across the world.

An infected bird will often carry the flu with them, introducing it to a new part of the world, and infecting animals there.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that a person can contract the virus by being around or touching an infected bird.

If virus particles get into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth they could be infected.

An infected bird will often spread infected droplets or dust through the air as they flap their wings, scratch or shake their heads.

A person who keeps poultry on their farm or in their backyard is advised to monitor their poultry for potential signs of the avian flu.

The bird flu is extremely deadly in humans, with a believed death rate of over 50 percent.

Human to human transmission of the virus is possible, but is extremely rare.

Yaron Michaeli, spokesman for the Hula Lake park in Israel, where the crane population is centered, said workers were removing the carcasses as quickly as possible, fearing they could infect other wildlife.

Wildlife officials in Israel said it is believed that the cranes were infected by smaller birds that had contact with farms suffering from outbreaks

Dafna Yurista, spokeswoman for the Agriculture Ministry, said half a million chickens in the area were being slaughtered to prevent the disease from spreading.

Israeli media carried photos of workers in white hazmat suits collecting crane carcasses after the birds were first found to be sick about 10 days ago.

Michaeli said the death toll among cranes appears to have stabilized in recent days.

‘This is a good sign,’ he said. ‘They might be starting to get over this. We hope very much.’ 

According to the World Health Organization H5N1 has killed more than 450 people, mainly in Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam, since 2003. 

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