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H5N1 Confirmed at Kindergarten Petting Zoo in Haifa Israel

Recombinomics Commentary 13:11
January 3, 2008

The Haifa District Physician, Prof. Shmuel Rishpon, confirmed Thursday that a deadly strain of the bird flu virus has infected chickens at a petting zoo in a Binyamina kindergarten.

Earlier Thursday morning 18 of the 25 chickens in the kindergarten's petting zoo, were found dead.
"The virus was identified as H5N1 bird flue,"

"The kindergarten staff has been given preventive medicines and as far as we know, none of the children or their parents came in contact with the birds.

The above comments confirm H5N1 in Haifa, Israel.  The finding was not unexpected because of the mortality in the chickens and initial positive data for influenza.  The lack of contact between children and chickens at a kindergarten petting zoo remains unclear.  The staff has been placed on prophylactic oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

The confirmation of H5N1 in Israel suggests bird flu is widespread in the Middle East. There are 38 reportedoutbreaks in Saudi Arabia, and the number of outbreaks in Egypt is likely to be higher (see satellite map).  Birds are migrating through the region at this time, and reported outbreaks upstream have been high this fall in Europe and possibly Iran..

Thus far confirmed human cases have been limited to Egypt (see satellite map) and Pakistan, although there was a suspect case at the Kuwait airport.  The similarity between H5N1 in Egypt and Israel in 2006 raises the possibility of more human cases in the area.  In addition to the recent confirmed cases in Egypt, a growing number of suspect cases are being reported.

The outbreak in Pakistan is likely to be the Uva Lake strain, which has been widespread in Europe and in Kuwait early last year.  It is likely that the Uva Lake strain has now migrated into the Middle East and may be recombining with resident sequences.

Other than Germany and Russia, all other countries have withheld recent H5N1 sequences.

The release of those sequences would be useful.

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