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Bird flu outbreak confirmed in Turkey

A fourth child with flu-like symptoms has been taken to a hospital for observation after chickens died of bird flu in a village in southeastern Turkey, local officials said.
/ Source: Reuters

A fourth child with flu-like symptoms has been taken to a hospital for observation after chickens died of bird flu in a village in southeastern Turkey, local officials said on Friday.

Turkey confirmed an outbreak of bird flu in the impoverished province of Batman on Thursday, a year after the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease killed four children in the region.

Agricultural authority workers in white protective suits and masks disinfected areas at the site of the outbreak in Bogazkoy, a hillside of simple one-story houses, around which a 10 km (6 mile) quarantine zone has been established.

Four children are under observation in hospitals, local officials said, three of them -- aged two, three and 16 -- in Batman and a one-year-old boy in neighboring Diyarbakir.

The Health Ministry said samples from the four children were being analyzed.

“The results of the tests on the four will be analyzed at the Ankara ... center and will be shared with the public. The general condition of those under observation is good. No patient has been confirmed as having bird flu yet,” the statement said.

The Agriculture Ministry said 170 chickens had died of bird flu in the village. Nearly 1,000 birds have been culled in Bogazkoy and two nearby villages. The ministry said it believed wild birds had spread the disease.

Checkpoints
Teams of workers entered courtyards in Bogazkoy to collect chickens in black plastic bags. The birds were suffocated and dumped in piles by the road.

“The animals have been culled. There is no new case (of sickness) and there is no problem now in the village,” said the village headman in Bogazkoy, Isa Tumenci.

Paramilitary police manned checkpoints at the entrance to the village and villagers were not allowed to leave.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed four deaths in Turkey from H5N1 last year -- all of them children from the town of Dogubayazit near the Iranian border. More than 160 people worldwide have died of the virus since 2003.

Scientists fear the H5N1 virus could mutate to a form easily transmitted from human to human. As people would lack immunity, it could then sweep the world, killing millions, they say.

Victims usually contract bird flu through direct exposure to diseased or dead poultry. Experts believe migratory birds originally brought the virus to Turkey and Europe from Asia and Russia, infecting domestic poultry.

Turkey culled some 1.3 million birds in its 2006 outbreak.