From: Reuters
Published January 3, 2008 07:42 AM

Israel investigates suspected bird flu in chickens

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli investigators have found preliminary signs of bird flu in dead chickens from a kindergarten petting zoo, government officials said on Thursday.

"The H5 bird flu strain has been found in the fowl," the Health Ministry said in a statement, referring to 18 dead chickens found in the kindergarten, which was ordered closed for two days.

The ministry said further tests were being conducted to determine whether the strain was of the H5N1 type which could be transmitted from fowl to humans.

Parents of children at the kindergarten, in the northern town of Binyamina, were urged to watch out for signs of high fever, the most common symptom associated with the virus.

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About a dozen birds in the kindergarten were culled.

Investigators were checking for any indication of an outbreak at poultry farms within a 10-km (6-mile) radius of Binyamina, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Israel culled around 1.2 million chickens and turkeys in March 2006 after chickens in several communal farms were found to have been infected with H5N1.

Human deaths from bird flu total more than 210 worldwide since 2003 and have been reported in several Middle Eastern countries. Migratory birds are seen as the main culprits in spreading bird flu from Asia to the Middle East and Europe.

Health experts fear the virus could mutate into H5N1 that spreads easily from one person to another, possibly triggering a pandemic that could kill millions. (Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Peter Blackburn)

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