Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-WHO probes bird flu spread as new Iraqi suspects detected

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-WHO probes bird flu spread as new Iraqi suspects detected

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AFP) - A World Health Organisation (WHO) team arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan's biggest city of Sulaimaniyah to probe the spread of bird flu as new suspected cases emerged.

The team, which had been in Arbil, will stay in Sulaimaniyah for three days lending support to local authorities in combating the deadly virus.

The experts will soon head to Raniya district where the first case of the deadly avian influenza was detected in a teenage girl who died last month.

"We will go there," said Naeema al-Gasseer, the WHO representative for Iraq.

She said the team will study the measures adopted by the local authorities in thwarting the spread of the virus, which is also suspected to have killed a man in the southern Iraqi city of Amara.

"We came at the request of Iraqi and Kurdish ministries to study the measures implemented to stop the risk of an epidemic and to give our support to the local government," Gasseer told reporters.

She said the Iraqi authorities were transparent and "treating the cases with seriousness."

"We will offer technical and logistical aid to them," she added.

WHO plans to equip Sulaimaniyah with a new laboratory to be funded by the European Union, she said, adding that medicine was on its way and "Sulaimaniyah will have its share."

She said the drugs were funded by the WHO, the USAID and the Iraqi government.

Denis Coulombier, a team member in charge for European Centre of Prevention and Control of Disease, said all efforts were being made to stop the spread of the disease.

"There is an obvious interest to stop any risk of the disease, as Turkey and Iraq are the doors to Europe."

He said contacts were also established in the south after a human death from suspected bird flu was reported earlier this week.

Meanwhile, five people with suspected cases of bird flu were admitted to Sulaimaniyah city hospital Wednesday, a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

The patients were from Sulaimaniyah. Overall, 17 people have been suspected of contracting the disease since its outbreak in the province in January.

In Amara, three brothers who were cousins of a pigeon breeder, who died recently from flu-like symptoms, were also admitted following similar symptoms. The man, who died Sunday, owned two H5N1-infected pigeons.

The three brothers lived in the same house with their cousin, the director of Amara's department of infectious disease confirmed.

He said the results of the samples of the dead man had not arrived yet from Baghdad, while samples of the three cousins have been sent for further investigations.

Iraq has officially confirmed two human deaths from bird flu, both in the Raniya region of Sulaimaniyah.

Understanding Avian Influenza