Experts pleased with bird flu efforts

Health authorities are being cautiously optimistic about their progress in combatting the disease.

Three weeks after its discovery in the country, Israeli and international health authorities are being cautiously optimistic about their progress in combatting bird flu in the region, despite the fact that they are still unable to predict its spread, according to Israeli and Jordanian Health Ministry representatives. The nature of the disease still makes it "almost impossible" to predict where it will appear next, according to Yair Amikam, Deputy Director-General for Information and International Relations at the Health Ministry. "So far, we still don't have any accurate reason we can put our finger on regarding the spread of the virus," he said, adding that health authorities have as yet been unable to narrow down the list of potential carriers, which could include anyone who had been close to the point of contact. But Amikam said that Israel had been anticipating the arrival of bird flu for over a year, and had high praise for the way the plans have been followed so far. He pointed out that some hiccups have been reported, including problems with the proper method for the disposal of dead birds, but "generally, we acted fully by the rules we wrote and distributed to the farmers," he said. Over one million birds have been culled, but there is still no way to predict how long the threat will last, he added. Dr. Adel Belbeisi, Director of Disease Control at the Jordanian Health Ministry, agreed. "We've taken all control measures, but nobody can anticipate when the next infection will happen," he said. Two cases of bird flu have recently been found in Jordan, including one case of a human contracting the disease. Belbeisi said that Jordanian authorities have been maintaining communication between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Syria, while Dr. Alex Leventhal, Director of Israeli Public Health Services, said that a shared health crisis between Israel and its neighbors could pave the way for mutually beneficial activity. "I think that the Jordanian cooperation during this time of huge stress can raise a huge opportunity for cooperation between the Jordanians, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel," he said. "This is very important, because from an epidemiological point of view, the difference between the countries is so small."