Israel says bird flu outbreak brought under control

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The recent outbreak of bird flu that has decimated thousands of cranes in Israel’s north has been brought under control, the Agriculture Ministry said Friday.

The outbreak struck Israel’s fowl and wildlife, killing over 8,000 cranes in the area of Lake Hula in northern Israel and infected around one million chickens in coops, some of which have been preemptively culled by farmers.

After authorities removed most of the bird corpses from Hula Lake Park earlier this week, the Agriculture Ministry said the Jewish National Fund will return to manage the site.

Next week, experts will begin the next stage of disinfecting and cleaning the park as well as ensuring no bird carcasses are in the premise of the park. If conditions allow, the park will reopen to the public in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of experts held this week at the initiative of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University, the head of Veterinary Services, Dr. Tamir Goshen, said the conditions of Israel’s coops are far from meeting the standards of developed countries.

One of the examples Goshen used at the meeting was the ease in which visitors can enter chicken coops in Israel, creating fear of human infection. Another problem which has been discussed was the lack of monitoring activities to track the transmission of diseases. The head of the scientific division in the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Yehoshua Shkedy, said the authority has a plan for dealing with the issue – but has not yet realized a budget for it.

The Agriculture Ministry said that it would formulate a plan for recovery and preparations for the next migratory season of wild birds expected in March, with the goal of preparing for a further outbreak of the avian flu.

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The ministry also said the bird flu virus appears in Israel every year, but during this season its rapid spread was exceptional, and the virus’ variant detected in the country this year – H5N1 – is very dangerous for humans.

The management at Hula Lake Park will also be examined in preparation for another outbreak. Hula Lake Park is one of the most-visited sites in Israel, and flocks of tens of thousands of cranes pass through it every year.

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