Massive New Bird Flu Outbreak Could Be 2022’s Deadly Pandemic

In the Galilee, migrating cranes infected with H5N1 are dying by the thousand, raising fears of a global pandemic.

Staff from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have begun the grim job of collecting crane carcasses in the Hula Lake Reserve in northern Israel, where some 5,000 dead birds have been counted during the worst outbreak of bird flu ever to hit the country’s wild bird population. Hadas Kahaner/Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Israel’s National Security Council has assumed control of a massive bird flu outbreak in the Galilee, which scientists warn could become a “mass disaster” for humans.

Over half a billion migrating birds pass through the area every year, heading for warm African winters or balmy European summers, making this a catastrophic location for a major bird flu outbreak—right at the nexus of global avian travel.

The virus can be deadly if it infects people. The World Health Organization says more than half of the confirmed 863 human cases it has tracked since 2003 proved fatal. Most strains or variants of avian flu, H5N1, are relatively difficult to transmit to people.

Yoav Motro, a specialist in vertebrates and locusts at Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture, said that for now, H5N1 is presenting “like the opposite of COVID. Compared to COVID, the chances of [humans] catching this are very, very slight—but unlike COVID, the risks of dying from it if you do catch it are very high.”

“It is a tragic ecological event,” he said. “And we simply do not know how it will end, or where it will lead.”

Israeli scientists don’t yet know the full scale of the die-off in Israel because of the dangers inherent in fishing around marshes and wetlands. Observing birds that shy away from human contact and the urgent matter of retrieving bird carcasses is proving even more challenging because of the lack of waterproof protective gear currently available in the arid country.

Source: The Daily Beast

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