Two more people in China have died from H5N1 strain of bird flu, bringing the death toll there to five, as the country announced another outbreak in poultry. Scientists fear H5N1, which is known to have killed 78 people since late 2003 and is endemic in poultry across parts of Asia, could mutate into a form that can spread easily between people, leading to a pandemic.
The virus has infected birds in some 30 out of 81 provinces, including Turkey's key tourism region near the Aegean coast, Ankara and the business hub Istanbul. Authorities have stepped up the culling of poultry, with more than 300,000 killed since December 26.
The authorities say the have the situation under control, but stress that Turkey will remain at risk as it lies in the path of migratory birds believed to carry the virus.
Health experts have said there is no evidence so far of human-to-human transmission, but fear the H5N1 strain could mutate into a version that can be transmitted easily from person to person and spark a pandemic.
More than 70 people are suspected of having bird flu and are being tested. In eastern city of Van, where some 40 people are being treated for suspected bird flu, locals complained that officials had failed to take away chickens running freely in the roads where children play.
"I'm worried for our children. I have been calling people for three days asking them to take the chickens away," Cengiz Isik, a 34-year-old waiter, told Reuters.
AUTHORITIES STEP UP CHECKS, TIGHTER CONTROL
A crisis centre has been set up in Ankara to deal with the outbreak and the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would meet officials on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
The authorities have ordered doctors from large cities to be sent to eastern Turkey, which has been worst hit by the virus and where there are not enough doctors.
To reduce the risk of the spread of the virus patients will be carried in different ambulances from other family members, and the clothes of health workers and their vehicles will be disinfected regularly.
Two teenagers died last week from bird flu in eastern Turkey -- the first reported deaths from the virus outside China and Southeast Asia. Their dead sister is also a suspected victim and hundreds of Turks have rushed to hospitals for bird flu tests.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it was not clear why so many people had been infected in Turkey so quickly. "It is an open question if we are seeing a more efficient transmission from animals to humans," said Guenael Rodier, heading the WHO's mission to Turkey.
There was also no answer yet to why the fatality rate was relatively low -- just two confirmed deaths so far -- against a rate in east Asia of roughly one death in every second case.
Snow and freezing temperatures in the east of Turkey are also hampering efforts to tackle the virus and may be allowing it to survive for longer.
Authorities in neighbouring countries sprayed cars crossing from Turkey with disinfectant and checked luggage as they tried to stem the spread of bird flu.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16