The bird flu continues to spread in the Hula Valley, thousands of wild birds have died or been injured

The Nature and Parks Authority updates that the Hula Nature Reserve will be closed to visitors from tomorrow (December 23, 2021) to December 28 due to multiple cases of H5N1 bird flu, which has been identified in birds in the Hula Valley area and can also cause human disease.

The decision was made later to assess the situation that took place today with representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and in order to prevent unnecessary risk to visitors to the site.

It is estimated that there are thousands of wild birds that have been injured and died from the disease so far and it is known that this is the worst case of wildlife injury in years.

The Minister of Environmental Protection, Tamar Zandberg, and the professionals in the Ministry of Environmental Protection are working with the Nature and Parks Authority and government ministries to stop the chain of infection, and prevent the continued outbreak that endangers natural systems in northern Israel and severe damage to wildlife.

The Nature and Parks Authority states that if any species of injured or dead birds are identified in the area, all contact with them and their secretions should be avoided and reported immediately to the Nature and Parks Authority’s hotline, number 3639 *.

The Nature and Parks Authority continues to carry out operations and monitoring in the field together with officials from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture in order to prevent the spread of the disease among birds and to prevent cases of disease among humans.

Gray crane – a large chicken from the crane family whose habitat includes swamp areas and muddy soil. The species feeds on sprouts, seeds, roots and even vegetables and species"Casual H. The species nests in northern Eurasia and migrates sharply to the south. One of the main migratory routes of the species is becoming more acute in Africa in Africa, with part of the population migrating through us remaining wintering in Israel. In the autumn (October) season, more than 100,000 cranes arrive in Israel, most of them entering through the Hula Valley. In recent years, about 40,000 cranes have remained to winter in Israel, with over 90% of them staying in the Hula Valley until the beginning of March. From this period, wintering cranes join those coming from Africa, and migrate to the nesting areas of northern Eurasia.

Dynamics and a multi-year interface of cranes in the Hula Valley – In the 1980s, a few hundred cranes were exterminated in the Hula Valley. The agricultural crops at that time were based on cotton crops. In the following years, there was a considerable increase in the number of cranes left to winter in the Hula Valley, to the extent of tens of thousands of individuals. A number of major changes can be noted: a. Agmon Hahula was trained and opened in 1994. B. In the early 1990s, there was a change in the crop interface in the Hula Valley, and one of the main crops in the summer was peanuts. In this crop and the like, a large amount of food remains in the soil after the end of the crop. The food left over from the summer crops, and the preferred lodging site within the shallow Hula Reed, contributed to a large delay of cranes in the valley, with many of them shortening their migration to Africa and remaining wintering in the Hula Valley.

Photo: Guy Ayalon Nature and Parks Authority

This led to widespread conflict with farmers. One of the solutions adopted from the mid-1990s included the feeding of cranes in corn kernels in the western part of the Hula Reed, as a means of attraction that would keep the cranes away from the agricultural lands. The perennial dynamics showed that the wintering population grew from year to year and reached up to about 60,000 cranes, with the amount of feeding sometimes reaching up to 11 tons of seeds per day. At the same time, the valley became a tourist attraction for observation of cranes. The extent of the conflict in recent years has led to a rethinking of this interface, while trying to explore ways to reduce the winter crane population. This has not yet led to a significant change, and in early December 2021, about 40,000 cranes were documented in the Hula Valley. Figure 1 depicts the dynamics of cranes in Israel in 2021.

Avian influenza is a viral disease (virus) that attacks birds. The virus is transmitted by"Contact with infected birds or their secretions. Migratory birds are known as a vector for transmitting the disease to different regions in their migration. One of the conflicts with the agricultural system is the infection of chicken coops and turkeys. It is a deadly disease, and because of the high density the disease is transmitted at a rapid rate and causes great mortality. One of the strains of is defined as a violent strain (H5N1) that in exceptional cases can infect humans. For humans, it is a serious disease that can cause mortality with a probability of about 50%. Avian influenza was first documented in Israel in 2006 in the south of the country, and since then it has appeared every few years in other parts of the country, with the understanding that the infection came from migratory birds.

Photo: Guy Ayalon Nature and Parks Authority

About a week ago, evidence of crane mortality in the Hula Valley began to accumulate. Tests performed documented the H5N1 avian influenza virus (the violent strain). A test done by p"KK men"The sick reedbed has raised about 1,800 birds so far, with a large proportion of the carcasses inside the body of water. During these days many sick and weak cranes were documented that came to localities and near people (Map 2). To date, less than 20 dead cranes have been documented in the Hula Reserve. A report by Prof. Ran Natan shows that 6 out of 11 transmitted cranes contracted the flu and 2 of them have already died. This condition may suggest, despite the small sample, that a significant percentage of the population in the Hula Valley are likely to contract the disease and die. It is important to note that the high density of individuals in feeding areas, and accommodation within the reedbed, contributes to the rapid transmission of the disease. On the other hand, it seems that due to the weakness of the cranes, a minority of them move to other parts of the country, although this is possible.

Impact on other wild birds – The bird flu has been documented in the past in various waterfowl, many of the cases were from the ducks. At present, there is still no clear evidence of disease this year in other waterfowl. There is information on a number of dead waterfowl in the Goma Junction area, which will be checked soon. Regarding birds of prey, there is so far no information on birds of prey mortality, although this is possible as infection is possible when eating fresh infected chicken.

Effect on mammals – sells sensitivity of mammals from the feline and weasel family that feed on sick birds. Among these families, the swamp cat is known in the Hula Valley, which is the main predator, and the common otter and badger. Last week, a dead otter was found in the Hula Reserve, but an examination found it to be negative for bird flu. No other mammals have been recorded so far.

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