Government okays preparations for possible bird flu outbreak

The government approved the purchase of medicines and vaccines as part of the preparations of a possible outbreak of bird flu, Health Ministry Director General Professor Avi Yisraeli told Israel Radio on Friday. Shimon Pokmonski, an Agriculture Ministry official, told Israel Radio on Friday the veterinary service is taking blood samples in poultry houses around the country as well as from migrating birds, and so far no traces of the virus have been found. He added that there was no fear of bringing the virus into the country in imported poultry, because Israel does not import chickens for meat. There are no known cases of contracting the disease by human-to-human contact – all known cases of bird flu were caused by direct contact between the victims with chickens. European countries tightened border controls on poultry and poultry products on Thursday after tests confirmed a bird flu outbreak in Turkey was H5N1, the same virus that has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003. Test results to determine the strain of virus infecting three ducks in Romania were due sometime on Friday. Experts suspect migratory birds, usually wildfowl that are silent carriers of the virus, may have carried the disease to Europe along their natural migratory routes.