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Gaza Bird Flu Causes Poultry Shortage

U.N. experts are warning that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip could begin suffering from protein shortages because so much poultry has been culled because of bird flu.

Calling bird flu a problem without a passport, U.N. officials are warning the threat of the virus remains extremely serious in the Gaza Strip, where bird flu was first discovered last month.

More than 500,000 chickens have been infected by bird flu in the Gaza Strip and half of those chickens have been culled. U.N. experts say efforts are well under way to cull the rest, but as a result Palestinians in the Gaza Strip could soon develop protein shortages, because chicken is a primary source of protein for most people living in the area.

Ambroggio Manenti, the regional head of the World Health Organization says because the main border crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip is closed for security reasons, there are few other protein sources for the residents of Gaza.

"The fact is that the poultry product is the primary source of protein intake in the Gaza Strip," said Manenti. "The lack of availability of alternate protein sources, particularly as a result of the recent closures of the Karni crossing, which has prevented imports, leads to concerns of nutritional consequences of this outbreak for the population."

More than one million chickens have been destroyed in Israel since bird flu was discovered last month. There are no reported human cases of the disease in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.

The threat of bird flu has transcended politics in the region with Palestinians, Israelis, and international health officials continuing to work together to contain its spread.