Avian flu fears spark chicken cull

4,000 fowl culled in bid to halt lethal virus spread; hospitalized 4-year-old illness unrelated.

bird flu sde moshe (photo credit: AP)
bird flu sde moshe
(photo credit: AP)
Agricultural Ministry workers were observed on Friday clad in protective gear as they worked to cull as many as 4,000 chickens in the Binyamina area. The cull orders came following the outbreak of the human-lethal H5N1 strain of the avian flu in the petting zoo of a Binyamina kindergarten. All kindergarten and veterinary staff were given preventative treatment on Thursday, even though authorities were keen to emphasize that there was no reason to seriously fear for their health. At one point a 4-year old girl was hospitalized with flue like symptoms, only to be diagnosed as suffering from unrelated pneumonia. The kindergarten itself was opened Friday afternoon, after disinfection and cleaning procedures were completed. Eighteen chickens have been found dead from bird flu in a Binyamina kindergarten's animal corner on Thursday. The kindergarten teacher alerted the district health office when she discovered the chickens had died - but not the ducks or pigeons - and the authorities closed the kindergarten for a day. Magen David Adom announced that it would prepare for the possibility of human infection. MDA teams across the country were instructed to refresh procedures and ensure the presence of protective measures and sterilization substances in their ambulances. Teams in the Binyamina area received briefings on disease symptoms and cautionary steps. In addition, MDA has prepared special enclosed beds, resembling large incubators, to allow safe transfer for people suspected of infection. The Health Ministry, meanwhile, reiterated basic guidelines to prevent bird flu infection. Consumers should buy food products only in recognized, licensed stores under veterinary supervision, hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling food and raw foods, including eggs, should be fully cooked. Symptoms of bird flu (H5N1 virus) include an unexplained acute lower-respiratory infection. People who have been in contact with other poultry - not those in the Binyamina kindergarten, but within three kilometers of it - should be alert to any symptoms of fever within a week of contact with the fowl. If a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius develops, one should go to a hospital emergency room and tell staff about the possibility of bird flu. Ministry officials said it had no other reports of fowl deaths in the area. The ministry said it had not changed the level of alertness to bird flu, which is not a human epidemic. Only if the virus results in human-to-human infection will the authorities be worried, and this has not happened.