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The Health Ministry was expected to decide on Friday afternoon whether or not to eradicate poultry in two southern kibbutzim of Holit and Ein Hashlosha after some 17,000 chicken and turkeys died there over the past few days.
Chief veterinarian of the Agriculture Ministry Dr. Shimon Pokamunski told Israel Radio that initial tests revealed that the poultry did in fact die of bird flu, but it had not yet been determined if it was the deadly H5N1 strain. He added that a final confirmation of the virus would only be available on Saturday.
If the deadly strain is to be discovered in the samples taken from dead turkeys, the Health Ministry may decide to kill entire flocks and place a three-kilometer quarantine on the region. Likewise, birds in other coops in the area were expected to be tested for the virus.
Pokamunski said that it had not yet been decided to launch a massive vaccination campaign, but should that decision be made, the Health Ministry would be ready to proceed within three days.
Head of the National Center for Disease Control Prof. Manfred Green assessed that it was highly unlikely that people can contract the disease from infected birds, Army Radio reported. Those cases were extremely rare, and have been recorded only in cases of people working in close contact with infected fowl.
Both Prof. Green and Health Minister Yaacov Edri stressed that people need not refrain from eating chicken and turkey products, including their eggs, although those products must be thoroughly cooked.