March 20, 2006

Israel poisons poultry in bird flu battle

By Megan Goldin

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel poisoned hundreds of thousands
of turkeys and chickens as it sought on Monday to contain an
outbreak of the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu which has
been spreading at an alarming rate.

The virus has rippled out from Asia to the Middle East,
Europe and Africa in recent months, with migratory birds seen
as the main culprit.

Bird flu can infect people who come into close contact with
infected poultry and has killed at least 98 people since late

Experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that passes
easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic in which
millions could die and which could cripple the global economy.

Europe began discussing the possibility of curbing poultry
production in order to prop up prices.

Israel's neighboring Egypt said on Saturday that a
30-year-old woman had died of bird flu, the country's first
reported death from the virus.

The woman was from Qaloubiyah province, about 40 km (25
miles) north of Cairo. Egypt said on Sunday that a man from
same area suspected of having the virus had recovered.

Bird flu has flared anew in Asia in recent days.

Malaysia reported a new outbreak of H5N1 among dead
chickens in the northern state of Penang.

Six dead chickens were found in Seberang Prai, on the
mainland side of a bridge that links the resort island of
Penang, one of Malaysia's top tourist attractions.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan has provided some 50
protective suits for cull workers there. Afghanistan aims to
start culling on Wednesday.


Health experts insist that there is no health risk from
eating properly cooked eggs and poultry, but bird flu scares
have depress sales of poultry.

Europe should start cutting back on its production of
chicks and hatching eggs as a first step to support poultry
prices, the EU's farm chief said on Monday.

The EU's main consumer countries have seen poultry prices
fall by between 15 and 20 percent in the last five months.

"What is desperately needed is to reduce production. A
targeted approach on hatching eggs and chicks would, from my
point of view, be the most practical approach," EU Agriculture
Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told a news conference.

In Israel, birds were being given poisoned water and their
carcasses were being buried in large pits. Four million doses
of an H5N1 vaccine for chickens were expected to arrive from
the Netherlands on Tuesday, the ministry said.

China defended its vaccination policy on Monday, saying its
vaccines were the best in the world and that no healthy looking
poultry had been founded infected with H5N1.

Bad vaccines for poultry can "mask" diseases. The vaccines
protect birds, which often don't show symptoms, but do not
guard against infection and the birds can shed the virus in
their feces.

The virus then spreads to more birds, mutates and can even
jump species barriers, for example, into humans.