Israeli officials order tens of thousands of turkeys destroyed

Israeli officials on Friday ordered tens of thousands of turkeys destroyed as they awaited final word on whether the country has experienced its first outbreak of the deadlyH5N1 strain of bird flu.

About 11,000 turkeys have died in recent days, and after preliminary tests, Health Minister Yaakov Edri said there was a "very high chance that this is avian flu."

"We are already pretty sure it is avian flu, but of course, there are more tests to be done," Edri told Army Radio.

An Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman, Dafna Yarisca, told The Associated Press it could take anywhere from hours to days until final results were in.

No cases of human illness have been reported, Edri said. If deadly avian flu is confirmed, and in the unlikely event it spreads to humans, Israel has vaccinations for half a million of its 7 million people, he said.

Three people admitted to a southern hospital were being observed for signs of bird flu, a spokesman at Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva said, but Israeli veterinary officials said they did not think the patients had contracted the disease.

Health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted easily between people and become a global pandemic, but there has been no confirmation of this happening yet. At least 97 people have died from the disease worldwide, with most victims infected directly by sick birds, reports the AP.


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