Bird Flu Alarm

2006-01-20-Bird flu secrecy angers Turkey

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-01-20-Bird flu secrecy angers Turkey

Turkey says its battle against bird flu is being hampered by the refusal of neighbouring countries to admit they are harbouring the deadly virus.

The agriculture minister urged local authorities to be extremely vigilant of "closed regimes". The UN said there was no evidence of such outbreaks.

Bird flu has hit 26 of Turkey's provinces, some near its borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The virus, confirmed as the deadly H5N1 strain, has killed four Turkish people.

'No evidence'

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told governors of Turkey's 81 provinces that he had obtained the information about undeclared outbreaks "through unofficial channels".

But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said there was no proof of an H5N1 outbreak in countries neighbouring Turkey.

Syria's Agriculture Minister Adel Safar rejected the accusation and said that the country's ban on poultry imports and tightening of border controls was a precautionary measure.

"Syria is free from bird flu, despite allusions from Turkey that neighbouring countries are hiding that there have been some infections," he said.

A team investigating bird flu in Turkey will visit neighbouring regions next week "to get a sense of whether they are on top of it or not", according to an FAO spokesman.

Representatives from the World Health Organization and World Organization for Animal Health will visit Egypt and Iran, Syria and Caucasus countries.

A mass cull of poultry is under way in almost one third of Turkey's provinces to try to stop the virus spreading any further.

A national awareness campaign has also been launched to warn people of the danger.

Understanding Avian Influenza