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Health Ministry reports avian flu cases at pair of bird farms

Ministry stresses H5N1 has low rate of transmission to humans, but says it will ‘provide preventive treatment to those defined as contacts’

Illustrative: Inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture are seen at a turkey farm in Israel, on March 8, 2011, after the deadly bird flu virus was discovered in one of the coops. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Illustrative: Inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture are seen at a turkey farm in Israel, on March 8, 2011, after the deadly bird flu virus was discovered in one of the coops. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Friday said it has received reports that the H5N1 strain of avian flu has been detected at two Israeli farming communities.

According to the ministry, the reported cases were at a turkey farm on Ein Tzurim in southern Israel, and on a duck farm at Kfar Baruch in the north.

The Heath Ministry stressed that the H5N1 — which the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially calls Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza — has a low rate of transmission among humans.

The ministry said “it was decided to provide preventive treatment to those defined as contacts,” and that its offices in the north were reaching out to schools and others who visited the petting zoo at Kfar Baruch.

There have been no reported cases in Israel of H5N1 among humans.

The Health Ministry added that the bird farms were “under the treatment” of the Agriculture Ministry, without elaborating.

The H5N1 subtype of avian flu can be deadly if transferred to humans, which the CDC says mostly occurs “after prolonged and close contact with infected sick or dead birds.” It has lead to the deaths of millions of birds in Europe and Asia as health officials attempt to contain the virus.

Israeli and Palestinian growers have dealt with sporadic outbreaks of the virus over the years, with hundreds of thousands of birds culled to stop the virus from spreading.

In 2006, southern Israel’s poultry industry was brought nearly to the brink of collapse, growers said, after a number of culls following the discovery of bird flu.

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