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Likely H5N1 at Petting Zoo in Israel

Recombinomics Commentary 19:11
January 3, 2008

Eighteen out of 25 chickens were found dead in the northern town of Binyamina on Thursday, in what veterinarians suspect might have been caused by the bird flu.

Laboratory findings have so far located the existence of one of the two proteins that are identified with the virus. Final results are to be received later on Thursday, and will indicate whether the second protein is also found in the chickens.

The above comments strongly suggest that H5N1 has been detected in Israel.  The high fatality rate in chickens in a petting zoo, coupled with initial positive data for influenza, suggests H5N1 will be confirmed.

H5N1 in Israel would not be a surprise.  The H5N1 isolated in 2006 in Israel and Gaza were virtually identical to the H5N1 in Egypt and Djibouti (see satellite map).  Although only Egypt reported H5N1 last season, it was likely present in all of the above countries last year.  In late 2005, Israel also reported a suspect case.

This season the H5N1 detection in birds and patients in Egypt has increased dramatically in recent days (see satellite map) and H5N1 has also been common in Saudi Arabia.  There have also be reports (and denials) of H5N1 in Iran.

It is likely that H5N1 has spread throughout the Middle East.

Updates on the follow-up bird flu testing in Israel would be useful.

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