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Bird flu kills at least 5,000 migrating cranes in Israel

ISRAEL – Bird flu outbreak killed more than 5,000 migratory cranes in Israel, urging authorities to declare a popular nature reserve closed to visitors.

The epidemic is affecting the Hula Nature Reserve, located in the north of the country. Here, about 500,000 common cranes pass each year during their migration to Africa. Several thousand stop in the park to rest before resuming their journey to the breeding areas from March.

“It is currently estimated that one fifth of the crane population in Israel has been affected by bird flu”, Explains Uri Naveh, deputy director of the scientific department of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

There are cases recorded every year in Israel, he adds, “but this year is more important” and the number of animals dead since last week is “exceptional”.

“This is the worst blow to wildlife in the country’s history,” Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg tweeted, as rangers in protective suits collected carcasses in a lake in the nature reserve of Hula, in the north of the country, and in the surrounding marshes.

500,000 hens slaughtered in prevention

Other outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 were detected in agricultural localities in northern Israel with chicken coops. In prevention, 500,000 chickens in the region will be slaughtered to prevent the spread of the disease

The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture said on Sunday to suspend the marketing of eggs from these farms. He further stated that he was putting measures in place to import eggs in order to cope with a possible shortage.

While the risk of transmitting avian influenza to humans is very low, experts from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority remind experts, the H5N1-type virus strain can be dangerous if contracted from humans. “It is fatal for 36% to 50% of infected people,” says Ohad Hatsofe.

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