Bird flu outbreak spreads, Bennett instructs close tracking

After hundreds of thousands of hens were put to death, bird flu killed thousands of cranes in one of Israel's worst wildlife disasters in its history.

Cranes gather during the migration season on a foggy morning at Hula Nature Reserve, in northern Israel, November 17, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Cranes gather during the migration season on a foggy morning at Hula Nature Reserve, in northern Israel, November 17, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The spread of avian flu amongst birds in Israel prompted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to instruct relevant bodies to keep a close eye on the disease, and authorities to declare a popular nature reserve off-limits to visitors. 

Authorities also warned of a possible egg shortage as local poultry are being culled as a precaution.

The flu also killed more than 5,000 migratory cranes.

"This is the worst blow to wildlife in the country's history," Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg tweeted as rangers in hazardous material suits collected carcasses of cranes from the lake of northern Hula Nature Reserve and outlying marshes.

Hundreds of thousands of chickens had been culled, she said.

Israeli media said children who had visited the reserve may have touched a stricken crane and thus contributed to the spread of the flu. Authorities were looking to import eggs from abroad and head off an egg shortage due to the cull, the reports said.

The government opened three bird flu centers in Ein HaHoresh, Ram-On and Givat Yoav, where they have isolated around 90,000 turkeys. Authorities added that they are currently monitoring additional farms in the area for outbreaks.

A sanitation worker looks at chickens after they were killed in the northern town of Beit Hananiya January 4, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/ELIANA APONTE)A sanitation worker looks at chickens after they were killed in the northern town of Beit Hananiya January 4, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/ELIANA APONTE)

"We need to bring the chicken coops in the State of Israel to a state of high biological safety so as not to be in such a developing and ongoing event next year as well," Agriculture Minister Oded Forer said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was briefed on the outbreak and conferred with national security advisor Eyal Hulata, prime minister's office D-G Yair Pines and others.

Bennett heard a survey of the outbreaks in Margaliyot and the Hula Nature Reserve and the efforts to curb the outbreak. No humans have been infected as of Monday but Bennett instructed the relevant bodies to synchronize their efforts and keep a close watch on the disease's spread.