Israel confirms deadly H5N1 bird flu

Israel's Agriculture Ministry confirmed Monday the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu had spread to three locations in the Holy Land, where hundreds of thousands of turkeys and chickens were culled over the weekend.

In a statement on its Web site, the ministry said the flu had been found at the southern communal farms Ein Hashlosha and Holit and in Sdeh Moshe, a farming community in central Israel.

In Ein Hashlosha and Holit, vets have almost completed destroying the flocks where the flu was found, and are now beginning culling flocks in a 3-km radius of the infected area, the ministry statement said.

In Sdeh Moshe and Nachshon, a fourth area suspected of being infected, the vets will complete the culling process later Monday, the ministry said.

"At the moment, we are talking about four infected areas, meaning the situation is under control. Even if additional infected areas are found, it does not mean the flu is spreading," the ministry statement said.

The H5N1 virus has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

World health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that would easily be transmitted between people, potentially triggering a global pandemic, though there is no evidence that is happening.

About 100 people have died from the disease worldwide, most after having been directly infected by sick birds.

Israel began culling flocks of infected turkeys on Saturday, even though the virus had not been officially confirmed. Initial tests led the Agriculture Ministry to believe the flu had spread to the area, and the infected farming communities were immediately isolated.


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