news services
updated 3/20/2006 2:05:22 PM ET 2006-03-20T19:05:22

Israel poisoned hundreds of thousands of turkeys and chickens as it sought to contain an outbreak of the dangerous H5N1 bird flu on Monday.

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In a statement on its Web site, the Agriculture Ministry said the flu had been found in birds at two communal farms in southern Israel and at a farming community in central Israel.

Fearing the worst, Israel had gone ahead Saturday with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys.

Teams wearing masks and plastic gloves had culled by Monday more than half of the 800,000 birds slated to be killed as officials sought to ease public concern the bird flu outbreak was spreading.

“We are talking about infections in six flocks in four locations when there are thousands of flocks in Israel in a vast number of locations,” Shimon Pokomonsky, a senior veterinarian at the Agriculture Ministry, told reporters.

Four farm workers in Israel feared to have caught the virus had not been infected, the Health Ministry said.

The H5N1 virus has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

World health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that would easily be transmitted between people, potentially triggering a global pandemic, though there is no evidence that is happening.

About 100 people have died from the disease worldwide, most after having been directly infected by sick birds.

Illness in Egypt
On Sunday, Egypt reported its second human case of avian flu — a 30-year-old Egyptian who worked on a chicken farm in the province of Qalyoubiya.

The man was recovering in the hospital after being admitted Thursday with a fever, Deputy Health Minister Nasser el-Sayyed said.

The country’s first known human case, a woman who died Friday, was from the same province, north of Cairo. The two victims had not had any contact and were from different villages, el-Sayyed said.

The Egypt-based U.S. Naval Medical Research was conducting additional tests to confirm whether the illnesses were caused by the H5N1 strain, the Health Ministry said in a statement run by the state Middle East News Agency.

Egypt discovered its first cases of the virus in birds last month.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report


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