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WHO Experts Test For Human Contagion Of Bird Flu

A worker sprays ducks in eastern Turkey on 5 January (epa) 7 January 2006 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending experts to eastern Turkey to check for signs of the spread of bird flu among humans.

British laboratories on 6 January confirmed the presence of bird flu in three young siblings who died this week in Turkey's Van province, near the Iranian and Armenian borders.

Tests are being conducted on some 20 other people in the same region who have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

The three children who died are all believed to have had contact with chickens who had died from bird flu.

Experts are seeking to determine whether there are any indications that the virus was passed from person to person.

The deaths in Turkey mark the first cases of bird flu deaths outside China and southeast Asia, where more than 70 people have died from the illness since 2003.

Health officials and experts from Asian countries are to meet in Japan next week to discuss the current preparedness of the region in facing the bird flu virus. The WHO announced today that the meeting in Tokyo will take place on 12-13 January.

(compiled from wire reports)