Jan. 3 (UPI) — Two new outbreaks of bird flu were reported in Israel on Sunday, as nations throughout the world continue to add new cases.
About 7,400 infected chickens were found in two coops in the northern Israel town of Gadish, while 14,000 turkeys were found to be infected in Ne’ot Golan and eggs produced in Gadish are being kept out of the market.
“This is an infection event of a magnitude we have not experienced here before,” Agriculture Minister Oded Forer said Sunday. “Each new hotspot is a warning sign that directs us to work to increase the biological safety of chicken coops in Israel.”
Forer added that Agriculture Ministry employees were ordered to work in an emergency format with increased forces “to allow a return to routine as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, the Agriculture Ministry reported that 5,500 chickens were infected with the virus on an organic farm in Barak, which was forced to isolate the coop housing the infected chickens and halt the sale of eggs from the farm.
More than 8,000 migratory cranes have died from bird flu in a continuing outbreak in the Hula Valley.
All outbreaks in Israel to date have been due to the H5N1 subvariant of the virus.
In response to the outbreak, Forer has allowed untaxed imports of eggs and instructed his office to raise the egg quotas for farmers in Israel to avoid an egg shortage.
Bird flu cases have also been reported in Canada, across Europe and into India and East Asia.
While most bird flu strains don’t infect humans, Prof. Amnon Lahad, chairman of Israel’s National Council for Community Health, told The Times of Israel that there was a “very concerning” possibility that it could do so with a mutation.
“The widespread nature of the avian flu is very concerning, especially given that it is infecting chickens and not just wild birds. It’s made the move from wildlife to stock animals and I’m hoping it won’t make the next step to humans,” he said.
The Health Ministry has encouraged Israelis to only purchase eggs from authorized suppliers and avoid wild birds to prevent transmission.
Additionally, the Agriculture Ministry has moved to cull 700,000 birds over the past few weeks in hopes of preventing the spread.