A large bird flu outbreak in the Galilee has been taken over by Israel’s National Security Council, which scientists say might turn into a “mass calamity” for people.
Annually, nearly 500 million migratory birds travel across the area on their way to sunny African winters or pleasant European summers, rendering it a potentially disastrous location for a significant bird flu epidemic at the crossroads of global avian migration.
“There is no way to know what is going to happen. When you identify avian flu in chicken coops you kill all the chickens and disinfect the coops. In the wild, at this level of infection, I don’t know where it will lead. I’m worried.”
If humans become infected with the virus, it can be fatal. According to the World Health Organization, over half of the 863 verified human cases monitored since 2003 were fatal. The majority of avian flu strains or variations, such as H5N1, are fairly difficult to spread to humans.
As many as 5,400 wild cranes have perished as a result of the novel H5N1 bird flu, that Israeli officials worry may spread worldwide.
17 % of the 30,000 Eurasian cranes traveling through the Hula Nature Reserve this winter have died, and biologists fear the worse for the remaining cranes, including at least 10,000 which seem to be sick. The birds are afflicted with the same form of avian flu that has afflicted chicken coops across northern Israel, prompting the killing of over 1 million birds lately.
Unless a logistic network of import birds is created, Israelis will be missing their favorite chicken schnitzel and eggs.
Due to the obvious risks of fishing near marshes and wetlands, Israeli scientists do not yet know the entire extent of the die-off in Israel. The absence of waterproof safety equipment now accessible in the arid terrain makes monitoring birds that avoid human contact and the pressing necessity of recovering bird carcasses much more difficult.