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Bird Flu - Archives


Questions in Turkey

UPI reports:


The low fatality rate among Turkish sufferers of avian influenza is triggering questions about the virulence of the virus. The possibility that the H5N1 virus might "trade" some of its virulence for increased levels of transmission has sparked hope that an eventual human-to-human avian-influenza pandemic may be no more dangerous than the annual seasonal flu.  


Some scientists have raised the possibility that this may be beginning to happen already, citing the Turkish avian-flu statistics as an example. Others are not so sure. In Southeast Asia, where bird flu first emerged, the death toll from the disease hovers around 50 percent. In Turkey, however, there have been only four deaths from a suspected 21 -- 12 confirmed -- cases of avian influenza, or a death rate of between 20 percent and 35 percent.


And Turkey’s Cihan news agency reports, without further elaboration, that “the World Health Organization on Monday expressed puzzlement at the young age of bird flu victims in Turkey during the recent outbreak of the virus in the country.”

February 1st, 2006


Turkey “Unique”

Turkey’s bird flu outbreak is no longer much in the news, and it appears that that’s good news. But concerns remain. As WHO Director-General, Lee Jong-Wook, notes, what happened in Turkey was unique.

He says the appearance of human cases of avian influenza in that country was unexpected. This is different from Asia where outbreaks of the H5N1 virus were detected in poultry well before the virus occurred in humans.


The WHO Chief says there was almost no prior warning of infection in poultry in the eastern part of Turkey.


"The Turkey experience demonstrates the dangers posed by avian influenza in birds and the vital importance of surveillance and effective early warning systems," said Dr. Lee. "It also reiterates the threat of a pandemic of influenza in humans. A pandemic could arise with little or no warning from the animal side."

January 24th, 2006


Turkey – the Aftermath

Egg consumption is down 90% in Turkey in the wake of the bird flu outbreak, according to Reuters, and poultry farmers are suffering:


"We can hardly sell any eggs. People are scared to buy eggs and poultry," Ahmet Sisman, the owner of the Buyuk Sismanlar egg production company, said on Wednesday at his farm housing some 300,000 egg-laying chickens in the Cubuk area, 40 km northeast of the capital Ankara.


…"Our retail customers cannot pay us back, but we have to feed our chickens. We can feed our poultry for the next week or 10 days, but if the situation remains unchanged and nobody buys our eggs, then we won't be able to feed our chickens any more. It is not like just shutting down a manufacturing factory," he complained.


…"After news of the first human deaths from bird flu in the east of the country, our sales came to a virtual halt. Now we sell only 10 percent of what we used to trade before," Yusuf Zafar Kaya, Vice-President of the Turkish Association of Egg Producers (TAEP), said. "The consumers are afraid to buy our product because of a lack of awareness. This is despite the fact that eggs and poultry from organised farms do not pose any health threat and all safety measures in the production facilities are strictly followed," he said.

January 19th, 2006


Turkey – More Cases Expected, But Situation Improving

Reuters reports:


The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it expected more human cases of bird flu following the death of four people in Turkey, but said the risks to humans were steadily diminishing.


…"We do expect to see some (more) cases because it takes time before the virus in birds has completely disappeared," Dr. Guenael Rodier, who heads the WHO mission to Turkey and is an expert in communicable diseases, told Reuters in an interview. "We know that the risk remains with close interaction between people and birds but we believe it is going down daily."

January 17th, 2006


Calm in Turkey

An excellent report in the Financial Times suggests that Turkish authorities are winning the bird flu battle. One interesting statistic:


The greatest source of comfort for [Health Ministry official] Dr [Mehmet Ali] Torunoglu amid the turmoil and dislocation of the outbreak is that the death rate among people in Turkey from infection by H5N1 is much lower than in southeast Asia – 16.6 per cent against 58 per cent (his calculations). “The outbreak is coming down from the peak point, but we cannot be certain about what will happen next. For the moment, this is not an epidemic,” he says.


For a fascinating first-hand account of the Turkish situation, read the blog from AP reporter Benjamin Harvey.


In another development, The Guardian reports that an analysis of the Turkish victims is leading scientists to believe they may have found a more effective treatment for the H5N1 strain of the virus.

January 14th, 2006


Turkish Bird Flu – Mutating?

WHO, quoting the Turkish Ministry of Health, says there have now been 18 confirmed cases of human bird flu infection in the country, with three fatalities.


Reuters says that the European Union has praised Turkey for its “transparency and cooperation over bird flu but advised neighboring states to step up surveillance to stop the disease spreading.” The Reuters report also includes a useful summary of bird flu issues around Europe.


However, Britain’s Evening Standard newspaper reports that British scientists examining viruses from two of the Turkish fatalities fear that the H5N1 bird flu is “mutating towards a form adapted to humans.”

January 13th, 2006


Turkey Update - UN Agencies at Odds?

There has been no new news out of Turkey for a couple of days. However, it seems that two United Nations agencies are at odds over the situation.


On the one hand, the World Health Organization is urging calm, and stressing that the problem has been well-managed:


Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, the WHO's regional director for Europe, Marc Danzon, said there was "no reason to panic" and warned that fear would "only cause a bad outcome".


"The situation [in Turkey] has been taken seriously from the beginning," he said. "From the WHO point of view, we are working easily with the health ministry and there is transparency.”The reaction in the country has been appropriate, and the management of the crisis is at the level where it should be. The ministry is doing everything that is known to maintain and manage this difficult crisis.”


However, there is also this:


"The virus may be spreading despite the control measures already taken," Juan Lubroth, senior animal health officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN told the Associated Press.


"Far more human and animal exposure to the virus will occur if strict containment does not isolate all known and unknown locations where the bird flu virus is currently present," said Lubroth.


"The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 could become endemic in Turkey," said a statement by the FAO.

January 12th, 2006


Turkey – No More News Is Very Good News

For more than 24 hours the number of confirmed human bird flu cases in Turkey has remained at 15.


The Independent reported that “Turkish authorities were trying to reassure the world it had the outbreak of bird flu under control,” while Britain’s Channel 4 quoted a WHO official as stating that "I have a sense that what is going on in Turkey can be ...brought under control relatively easily.”


And the New York Times has a fascinating report:


Two young brothers, ages 4 and 5, who have tested positive for the dreaded H5N1 avian virus, were being closely watched at Kecioren Hospital here today, although neither has exhibited any symptoms of the disease.


Doctors are unsure whether they are seeing for the first time human bird flu in its earliest stages, or if they are newly discovering that infection with the dreaded H5N1 virus does not always lead to illness.


In any case, the highly unusual cluster of five cases detected here in Turkey's capital over the last three days - all traceable to contact with sick birds - is challenging some of the doctors' assumptions about bird flu and giving them new insights into how it spreads and causes disease.


Since none of the five have died, it is raising the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as currently thought, and that many mild cases may have gone unreported.


Meanwhile, The Independent has also reported that:


Jittery European governments sprayed disinfectant over lorries from Turkey. In Italy, a consumer group urged a ban on travel to Turkey, and in Greece, veterinary inspectors stepped up border checks. Neighbouring Bulgaria issued advice on how to cope.

January 11th, 2006


Turkey – Getting Worse

New cases in the Black Sea provinces of Kastamonu, Corum and Samsun, near the capital Ankara, have led experts to fear “a westward march by the virus towards Europe. The virus first surfaced in Van, about 1,000 kilometres farther east.”


The World Health Organization, which is generally cautious in confirming bird flu outbreaks, has announced that 14 cases of human infection have been detected in the country, including two deaths. WHO officials have said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.


The Turkish newswire Zaman Online carries this highly disturbing report:


Prior to the announcement of bird flu cases at the beginning of January, it was determined the virus was actually first detected in the laboratories of the Agriculture Ministry on December 9. A ministry statement on the same day denied the existence of the disease in Turkey.


Also on the same day, the ministry's Veterinary Control Research Institute Directorate kept secret the autopsy records of suspect chickens, turkeys, and geese. These birds, it was confirmed, were infected with the bird flu virus. In different samples received from laboratories in Erzurum, Kars, Erzincan, and Agri in November, the bird flu virus was also detected. The data was recorded in laboratory reports on December 9-10.


Twenty five days after confirmation of the new diagnosis, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker stated, "There is no bird flu in Turkey."


In other developments, Iran has closed its Turkish border crossing, and Russian officials are advising against holidaying in Turkey.

January 10th, 2006


Turkey Update

The governor of Ankara has announced that two children and an adult in the Turkish capital have tested positive for H5N1 bird flu. It seems the unofficial count of cases of human infection in the country is now nine. There are also scary reports of bird flu in Istanbul. Altogether, the flu has been reported in 10 of the country’s 81 provinces, says the New York Times, and health officials say they now believe the disease has been “simmering” in the east of the country for several months.


According to the New York Times article:


The cluster of cases in Turkey is extraordinary and concerning, scientists said. In all of East Asia, where the disease has been running rampant in birds for years, only about 140 people have ever become infected and there has never been this kind of grouping.


Scientists are exploring various theories to explain the Turkish clusters, including biological changes in the virus and behavioral risks. "When the temperatures drop below zero - as they do frequently around Van in the winter - people may be more likely to bring the chickens indoors and that could increase exposure," Ms. Cheng said. "That's not something we'd expect in Vietnam, where it’s much warmer."

January 9th, 2006


Terror in Turkey

A third child has died in Eastern Turkey of bird flu, and at least 23 others in the region – mainly children - are in hospital, one of them in critical condition. Clinical Microbiology Foundation President Professor Haluk Eraksoy has stated that more deaths may occur. Reuters reports that bird flu has been detected in ducks near the capital Ankara, and comments:


The discovery suggests migratory birds may be spreading the disease across the large country, as experts had warned. Bird flu first surfaced in Turkey last October in a corner of western Turkey near the Sea of Marmara, further west than Nallihan, but authorities declared that infected area clear of the disease last month after imposing quarantine measures.
January 7th, 2006


Turkey Latest

The Turkish news service NTV MSNBC reports that a further six people have been hospitalized in the town of Aralik – where two bird flu deaths have already occurred - with bird flu-like symptoms. Altogether, 15 people in eastern Turkey have been hospitalized with the symptoms, according to the report. An official WHO announcement says 11 people have been hospitalized. The Turkish cases bring the number of countries reporting human infection to six, with a total of 144 cases.

January 6th, 2006


Turkey – Bird Flu Confirmed in Humans

Turkey’s Health Minister has confirmed two cases of bird flu human infection. One patient – a 14-year-old boy - has died, and his sister is seriously ill. A third sibling is showing bird flu symptoms. The family live and work on a poultry farm, in the east of the country, near the Iranian border.

January 5th, 2006


Bird Flu Fears in Turkey

A Turkish boy has died after eating chicken, and three siblings are sick. Tests for bird flu are being undertaken. Turkey has previously experienced H5N1 outbreaks, but has not previously reported human infection.

January 2nd, 2006


H5N1 Hits Europe (Almost)
The EU Commission has announced that the bird flu confirmed recently in Turkey is the H5N1 strain. The flu was found in birds in the north-west of the country, so the virus has still been confined to Asia. However, "EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said the assumption was that a bird flu outbreak in Romania would also prove to be the H5N1 type. Tests are continuing."
October 13th, 2005

Turkey Faces “Prolonged Threat”

Reuters reports that Turkey faces a prolonged threat from bird flu, as it lies in the flight path of birds migrating between Asia and Europe. Over the weekend, Turkish authorities confirmed an outbreak of avian flu on a farm near the Aegean Sea, in the country’s north-west. The strain of flu has yet to be determined. The European Commission has banned the import to the European Union of all live birds and feathers from Turkey.

October 12th, 2005