Rabies Outbreak Plagues Northern Israel

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More than 50 cases of rabies have been documented since Rosh Hashanah with a high percentage of them being discovered in Megiddo and the Carmel regions. The outbreaks among many dogs, mostly wild dogs, has caused a high level of concern in the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry is currently weighing the option of declaring certain areas as “outbreak zones” which will have drastic effects on dog owners in those areas.

The Veterinary Department which is under the Ministry of Agriculture believes that the new cases are a result of a new and particularly virulent strain of the rabies disease that came across the border recently fom Jordan.

The most recent cases of the new strain of the virus were seen in the Hof Hacarmel and Megiddo regions along the Harud stream. Cities including Megiddo, Yokneam, and the Moshav of Bat Shlomo, as well as numerous town in the Carmel and Carmel Beach regions, saw stricken Golden Jackals suffering from the virus as well as 15 pets who also suffered from the rabies strain.

Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel instructed the Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Shlomo Grazi to use drastic measures to stop the spreading of the disease in the northern regions. The Minister instructed Grazi to declare numerous areas as “affected” which brings with it numerous consequences for pet owners.

In “affected” areas, pet owners are not allowed to walk with their pets on a leash that s longer than 2 meters. It is also prohibited to maintain more than two dogs under one owner and regional veterinary services are allowed to put down any animal that is not vaccinated. The Minister requested that the veterinary services provide a detailed report within the next 24 hours detailing the budget and manpower needed to accomplish the tak of quelling the outbreak.

Steps have already been taken to stop the virus from spreading. In the past few weeks, more than 32,000 farm animals and heads of cattle have been vaccinated against rabies as well as hundreds of house pets including cats and dogs. Animal owners were called by regional service departments and asked to revaccinate their animals if the vaccinations were not done recently. National Park services have been working to dilute the Golden Jackal population that have been particularly affected and have already put down hundreds of the animals.

While the Ministry of Agriculture is placing the blame for the outbreak on animals that crossed the border into Israel from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as those coming from the Palestinian Authority, they pointed out that Israel is also partly to blame for the problem. “Open garbage containers, chicken coops, and barns, as well as dead fish left by the side of their ponds and animal carcasses left unburied, have played a major role in inviting these animals to run wild and partake in these makeshift “restaurants” for stricken predators such as the Golden Jackals, hyenas and foxes. If the regional councils and the Ministry of Agriculture would shut down these sites, then the populations of these predators would dwindle and so would the rabies problem,” said one of the chief ecologists for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)