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Turkey: Bird Flu Suspected In Chicken Deaths

More than 1,000 chickens have been found dead in eastern Turkey -- owned by farmers who says they bought the birds from a town in western Turkey where authorities are trying to contain an outbreak of bird flu. Meanwhile, an outbreak of the same strain of bird flu has been confirmed in nearby Romania. The developments come amid global concerns about the potential of a pandemic if the virus begins to infect people.

Prague, 16 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of dead chickens were scattered in the streets of Argi in eastern Turkey yesterday. The town is less than 100 kilometers from the border with Armenia, and about 130 kilometers from the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

Television pictures from Argi showed men shoveling the carcasses onto a truck to be carried away and burned.

One of the villagers who recently bought the birds said he purchased them from a part of western Turkey where officials have been trying to contain an outbreak of bird flu.

"We brought them from Bursa -- [near where bird flu has already been detected.] And now they are dead. So our situation is wretched," the villager said.

Other villagers in eastern Turkey say they have willingly handed over their poultry to health officials for testing.

The sudden death of the chickens has concerned Turkish health officials in the west who had just announced that the incubation period for the avian flu found there is over and that the danger to humans had passed. The area is under quarantine until 29 October. Officials say that quarantine will not be extended.

Earlier, Turkey's Health Ministry said nine people who were being kept under observation at a hospital in western Turkey for possible bird flu had been allowed to go home after tests showed they were not infected.

The virus in Turkey, a strain known as H5N1, has been identified as the same virus that killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of birds there.

Meanwhile, laboratory tests in England show the deadly H5N1 strain in samples from Romanian ducks -- confirming that the virus had arrived for the first time in mainland Europe. The British laboratory tests found the strain in three ducks found dead in Romania's Danube River delta last week.

Romanian Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur announced those findings in Bucharest yesterday. "As you know, the virus samples arrived [14 October] evening in Great Britain. [Yesterday] morning at 10 a.m., by phone, [British scientist] Mrs. Ruth [Manvell] confirmed that the virus is H5N1," he said. "We didn't receive an official report yet because Mrs. [Manvell] has gone to Spain. But in the next hours we expect a written confirmation, as well as [a report on] the degree of danger of this virus -- whether it is low or high danger."

A statement from the European Commission warned that Romania has the highly pathogenic type of bird flu that is dangerous to humans. But despite the news, Bucharest supermarkets continue to be stocked with poultry meat. And consumers are continuing to buy poultry.

"Of course I'm afraid, like everybody," one Bucharest resident said. "But since I heard that even our president eats chicken meat cooked at more than 70 degrees, there is no danger. I'm doing what the president is doing."

Nevertheless, farmers and suppliers in the poultry business are predicting a 50 percent drop in profits by the end of this year. So far, Romania has not reported any cases of bird flu in humans.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the birds that carried the virus from western Turkey to Romania also will spread the virus to other parts of Europe and to Africa.

That's because Romania's Danube River delta contains Europe's largest wetlands and is a major way station for migratory wild birds coming from Russia, Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany -- as well as those heading for the warmer climate of North Africa, including the Nile River delta.

See also:

Global Response Against Possible Bird Flu Pandemic Gathering Force

Bird Flu FAQ

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