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H5 Confirmed at Kindergarten Petting Zoo in Israel

Recombinomics Commentary 09:11
January 3, 2008

Israeli investigators have found preliminary signs of bird flu in dead chickens from a kindergarten petting zoo, an Agriculture Ministry official said on Thursday.

"The presence of the H5 strain of bird flu was discovered," Dr. Shimon Pokamunski, a ministry veterinarian, told Israel Radio.

The above comments confirm H5 at a zoo in Binyamina in Israel.  The high percentage of dead chickens indicates the H5 will be H5N1.  The presence of H5N1 in a kindergarten petting zoo increases concerns of transmission to children.

H5N1 was widely reported in early 2006.  The H5N1 in Israel was virtually identical to H5N1 in Egypt, Djibouti, and Gaza (see satellite map).  H5N1 was identified in patients in Egypt and Djibouti.  In 2007 H5N1 was widely reported in Egypt.  In 2006 and 2007 OIE reports detail 922 outbreaks in Egypt (see satellite maps here here here here here), but neighbors reported no H5N1.

This season H5N1 was widely reported in Europe and outbreaks have spiked in Egypt in the past few weeks, including fatal cases as well as suspect cluster in Egypt (see satellite map).  Outbreaks have also been widely reported in Saudi Arabia (see satellite map).  This outbreakin Haifa along the northern coast of Israel is consistent with a wild bird origin.

Multiple alerts have been issued in the region, including Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain.  Azerbaijan has banned poultry imports from Iran because of reported outbreaks there.

The sequences from recent outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and Egypt have not been released, but sequences from multiple wild bird outbreaks in Germany as well as Krasnodar indicate the H5N1 circulating in Europe is the Uva Lake strain, which was also in Kuwait last year. 

It is also likely that the Uva Lake strain was responsible for the clusters in Pakistan.

Release of withheld sequences would be useful.

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