Bird flu flown the coop? Israel has outbreak under control - ministry

Long-term plans will be drawn up following a major investigation to ensure there are regulated preparations in place so Israel will not have to just wing it.

 Cranes gather during the migration season on a foggy morning at Hula Nature Reserve, in northern Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN/FILE PHOTO)
Cranes gather during the migration season on a foggy morning at Hula Nature Reserve, in northern Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN/FILE PHOTO)

Israel's bird flu outbreak is under control, the Agriculture Ministry claimed on Friday.

The recent spread of avian influenza throughout the country saw around 20 chicken coop hotspots and migratory cranes severely affected, with tens of thousands of birds sick.

However, the efforts by the Agriculture Ministry seem to have taken flight. Now, their efforts will be centered on cleaning, disinfecting and watching like hotspots like a hawk. 

This process is set to take about a week.

Regarding the Hula Valley lake, which was a major bird flu hotspot due to the presence of thousands of migratory birds, control was transferred to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF). It may be open again for the public in the coming weeks, so long as infected carcasses are not present and that the area is fully disinfected and approved by the Health Ministry, so as to ensure that bird flu has truly flown the coop.

 Workers in hazmat suits are seen on January 2 removing the carcasses of cranes that died following an outbreak of avian flu at the Hula Valley. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS) Workers in hazmat suits are seen on January 2 removing the carcasses of cranes that died following an outbreak of avian flu at the Hula Valley. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

But while we may have ducked a worsening bird flu pandemic, it may be best not to cry foul and instead focus on preparing to deal with another outbreak in the future, specifically for the next migratory season in March.

Bird flu is detected every year in Israel in some form or another. However, this virus, H5N1, isn't like the others, being an unusually fast-spreading variant that can transfer to humans. 

Long-term plans will be drawn up following a major investigation to ensure there are regulated preparations in place so Israel will not have to just wing it.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) celebrated the progress made but warned that this is far from the bird flu's swan song, and more work must be done to prevent future outbreaks.

"There will be other outbreaks like this, it's not the end," SPNI Environmental Protection Department director Dan Alon explained. "It can come in the future. It's very similar to what we get with COVID-19. We need to be prepared for the next one, and we need to prevent practices that can trigger outbreaks like this."

This is a developing story.