Bird Flu Alarm

2006-01-12-WHO confirms Turkish human bird flu toll

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-01-12-WHO confirms Turkish human bird flu toll

ANKARA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday the number of people who have caught the deadly bird flu virus in Turkey has risen to 18 from 15, most of them children.



Guenael Rodier, head of the WHO mission to Turkey, told Reuters in an interview that laboratory tests in Ankara showed that a third dead child from the same family had the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Initial tests had showed she did not have the virus. The girl's teenage brother and sister also died last week and were already confirmed as bird flu victims.

"The (other) two new additional cases are also children who lived in close proximity to poultry but they come from two geographical separate areas," he said.

The H5N1 virus has been found in wild birds and poultry across large parts of Turkey, particularly in poor villages stretching from Istanbul at the gates of Europe to Van near the Iranian and Iraqi borders.

"Turkey's challenge is to avoid new outbreaks... (but) we should be ready for more cases," Rodier said. "In local terms it is not too worrying, we are not expecting an explosion."

The more it becomes entrenched in poultry flocks, the greater the risk that more humans will become infected. So far, the virus is reported to have infected about 150 people, killing at least 78 in six countries.

Rodier said it was too early to say whether the two children confirmed with bird flu on Thursday were out of danger. He said the rest of the patients were not in critical condition.

While there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission in Turkey, the large and rapid rise in the number of cases has worried experts.

Health experts are studying the outbreak for clues as to how to combat the virus. The mortality rate in Turkey is lower than in east Asia where around one in every two victims has died.

"We may be facing a population with more rapid access to hospitals and anti-virals...but until the outbreak is over we can't be sure," Rodier said.

While it remains essentially a disease in birds, scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that could spread easily between people, sparking a pandemic.

"We got good solid results back from London showing transmission is entirely avian," he said. "There is no evidence of any change in the transmission pattern of the virus."

Rodier said one of two boys who tested positive for bird flu in an Ankara hospital but who had not shown any symptoms of the virus had now developed some.

Understanding Avian Influenza