SE in Israel Reviewed at AVMA Virtual Convention


Dr. Riva Ben-Ezra, Deputy Chief Veterinarian for the Control of Animal Products affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Veterinary Services in Israel, commented on ethics and financial tradeoffs in considering flock depletion and public health at the virtual 2020 AVMA Convention. At issue was a widespread and escalating incidence of Salmonella Enteritidis infection in consumers, commencing in mid-2017 and extending through 2019.


Yosh MaOf was  identified as the source of infection. housing 350,000 hens, the unit is regarded as exceptionally large by Israeli standards.  Initially, the ownwers of the farm claimed that the eggs responsible for infection among consumers were illegally introduced into the market from the Palestinian Territory where SE is endemic.  Applying whole genome sequencing, it was shown that the SE in smuggled eggs was different from the isolates from the implicated farm and were common to patients in Israel, including children and adults. Dr. Ben-Ezra arranged for eggs to be diverted for heat treatment and the farm of 350,000 hens was depleted. 


She opined, “This is one instance where the protection of public health may potentially clash with veterinary medical ethics, requiring culling.”  She added, “Veterinarians have the ability and even the obligation to destroy ‘patients’ for the greater good to protect animal health and to protect human health.”


Dr. Ben-Ezra encapsulated the major principles of controlling a crisis.  She stressed a designated spokesperson, a single agency to give consistent information to consumers and other stakeholders and clear lines of communication.  In a tacit warning to veterinary regulators, she advised that policy and messages should be developed before a crisis to ensure smooth implementation of remidial programs.


Sima, G. Investigators Face Difficult Decisions on Depopulation, Recourse for Salmonelosis.  JAVMA 257:885 (2020).