Yossi Leshem, a top renowned ornithologist in Israel who works as a zoologist at Tel Aviv University and serves as the director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun, told the Daily Beast that bird flu poses a major global threat as it has the ability to mutate into new strains similarly to what has been seen from the coronavirus during the past two years.
“There could be a mutation that also infects people and turns into a mass disaster,” Leshem said.
Over half a billion migrating birds pass through the Galilee region every year before spending winters in warmer Africa or summers in balmy Europe, creating a threat of spreading the virus to different parts of the world.
The World Health Organization confirmed more than half of the 863 cases it tracked among people resulting in deaths, however, most strains or variants of avian flu, H5N1, are difficult to transmit to humans, the Guardian reports.
As of Monday (December 27), the Daily Beast reports at least 5,400 wild cranes have died in relation to the new H5N1 avian flu, which is leading to Israeli officials’ growing concern that the virus could create a global threat.
Among the 30,000 Eurasian cranes passing through the Galilee this winter at Hula Nature Reserve, 17% are reported to have already died from the virus, and scientists fear that number could grow, with at least 10,000 others already appearing to be facing poor health conditions.