Five new human cases of bird flu have been identified in several Turkish provinces, pushing the number of infected up to 14, officials say. The cases, confirmed by the country's authorities as being of the deadly H5N1 strain, mean the virus is now present in the east, west and north of Turkey.
At least two Turkish children have died and correspondents say fear is spreading rapidly across the country. However there is no evidence the virus is being passed from human to human. The two siblings confirmed to have died of bird flu in the eastern town of Dogubeyazit, in the province of Van, had close contact with poultry.
Tests are still being carried out on their 11-year-old sister, who also died, to see if she was also infected with H5N1. International experts have gone to the region, where a mass cull of poultry is under way, to try to find out how quickly the deadly strain is spreading.
It is unclear how many of the 14 cases are of the H5N1 strain, but the fact that the virus is travelling from the rural east to the more urbanised west, as well as along the Black Sea coast, is seen as worrying. The latest five cases to be reported are in the Black Sea provinces of Kastamonu, Corum and Samsun. On Sunday, three cases were reported around the capital Ankara - all of which, officials say, were of the H5N1 strain.
Forty eight cases are under investigation in Turkey, according to officials in Brussels. While the death rate on contracting the H5N1 strain is high, those who have died appear to have caught it from very close contact with sick birds. The main concern is that the virus will mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, but this has yet to occur.
The deaths of the two children last week were the first outside South East Asia, where around 70 people have been killed by the virus in the past two years.
The latest outbreaks have not been backed up by World Health Organization labs, which have confirmed only that the two deaths in Van were from H5N1. The WHO has attempted to play down fears of the disease, as Turkish officials sought to defend themselves from accusations they were slow to act in Van. Officials there have now asked residents to dig pits and bury their own birds.
They say they have had difficulty persuading people in the impoverished rural region to deliver all poultry up for slaughter. The EU already bans imports of live birds and poultry products, including feathers, from Turkey. On Monday, it announced a ban on feather imports from six of Turkey's neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Indonesian officials have confirmed that a 39-year-old man died of bird flu on 1 January, after he had come into contact with chickens that had died from the deadly strain. If confirmed by the WHO as a victim of H5N1, the case would be the 12th fatality from the strain in Indonesia.
Russia, Iran warn against travel to Turkey
Iran announces it has closed its border to day visitors from Turkey. Both Russia and Iran have warned their citizens not to travel to Turkey in the wake of a major outbreak of avian flu. As the deadly virus spreads across Turkey, with flocks of domestic fowl in at least ten of Turkey's 81 provinces affected and cases of human infection being reported in Van, Ankara and Corum, a senior Russian medical expert warned his countrymen not to travel to Turkey.
Gennady Onishchenko, the Russian state's head epidemiologist, said that Russians should in particular avoid eastern Turkey, where most of the incidents of bird flu have occurred. On Sunday, the Iranian Health Ministry also said Iranians should avoid travelling to Turkey and announced that a ban had been placed on the sale of poultry in three cities close to the Turkish border.
Iranian officials at the border were also spraying all vehicles with disinfectant that came through customs from Turkey as a precaution against the spread of the virus.
Source: NTVMSNBC and BBCGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16