updated 1/19/2006 3:38:28 PM ET 2006-01-19T20:38:28

The World Health Organization said Thursday the bird flu virus was not responsible for the death of a 15-year-old girl in Iraq, although officials in the region said test results were not finalized.

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“According to our Eastern Mediterranean office, it’s been dismissed as a case ... they got back to us that it was not avian influenza,” said WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng.

The girl died Tuesday in a Kurdish area of northern Iraq near the border with Turkey and Iran after contracting a severe lung infection. Her hometown of Raniya is just north of a reservoir that is a stopover for migratory birds from Turkey, the site of a recent bird flu outbreak.

Cheng said she understood that the girl had died of cardiovascular disease but that had yet to be confirmed. “For us it’s been discarded,” she said.

Iraqi and WHO experts inspected live and dead birds in Raniya, about 60 miles south of the Turkish border and 15 miles west of Iran. Kurdish regional health minister, Mohammed Khoshnow, said samples of the girl’s blood and heart have been taken and are due to be tested in Jordan and results were expected in about one week.

Kurdish officials had begun to burn and bury dead birds, as well as kill any migratory birds they capture, Kurdistan Health Minister Mohammed Khoshnow said Wednesday.

The girl’s family apparently kept chickens in their house and some of those birds had also died, said Dr. Abdul Jalil Naji.

The investigation into the girl’s death followed concerns that the virus could spread from Turkey, where preliminary tests indicated at least 21 people contracted the deadly H5N1 strain. Four of them — all children — died.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that bird flu might already have spread from Turkey to neighboring countries, including Iran and Iraq, but there have been no reported cases in Iraq.

The virus has killed 79 people in east Asia and Turkey since 2003.

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