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Turkey's Cull Continues As New Bird-Flu Cases Confirmed

Authorities culling birds in Dogubeyazit, eastern Turkey, on 7 January (AFP) 8 January 2006 -- Workers are continuing to seize and kill fowl from villagers in eastern Turkey as the number of confirmed bird flu cases in humans has risen to four in the Van province.

Meanwhile, Ankara Governor Kemal Onal said today that three people hospitalized in the Turkish capital have tested positive for bird flu.

The three include two children from the town of Beypazari, 100 kilometers northwest of Ankara, and an adult. No further details were immediately available.

It was unclear if it was the H5N1 strain that recently killed at least two children in the southeastern city of Van.

Fighting The Outbreak

Some reports say culling crews in eastern Turkey have been meeting resistance from farmers unwilling to give up their poultry for slaughter, while other reports suggest locals are frustrated at the slow pace of the culling.

Tests have confirmed that two children died from the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in the city of Van, near the borders of Iran and Armenia. Those cases were the first human fatalities from H5N1 outside Southeast Asia.

Two other children confirmed to have the illness have been hospitalized in Van, while dozens of other people with flu-like symptoms have been taken to nearby medical facilities.

Doctors suggested the victims probably contracted the illness by playing with dead chickens.

In Iran, the Health Ministry said there is "tight observation" in the border area with Turkey.

Fears Of Eid Traffic

In Istanbul, doctors are warning citizens that bird flu could spread to urban areas when thousands of sheep and goats are brought in to be sacrificed for the coming Muslim Eid holiday.

Dr. Gencay Gursoy, chairman of the Istanbul Physicians Association, said he expects the bird flu virus could be transported into cities within the hair of such livestock.

"It is inevitable," Gursoy said. "In eastern and southeastern regions, contact of livestock and poultry is part of the life as even people are living with poultry in their houses. The waste [of poultry that has been infected with the virus] may transfer with the skins and the furs of animals."

Russian Warning

Russia's chief epidemiologist on 8 January urged Russian citizens not to travel to Turkey because of the outbreak of bird flu there.

Gennadii Onishchenko said it is particularly important for Russians to avoid parts of eastern Turkey near the borders with Iran and Armenia.

Onishchenko also signed orders the previous day calling on Russian border authorities to step up health checks on people entering Russia from affected areas.

In Saudi Arabia, health experts have warned that the huge crowds pilgrims gathered in Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage could create the conditions in which a pandemic strain of bird flu may emerge.


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