Bird Flu Reports Multiply in Turkey, Faster Than Expected
Published: January 9, 2006
ISTANBUL, Jan. 8 - A flurry of new reports of
in humans and animals emerged Sunday from various
, and international health officials said they had come to believe that the disease had been simmering in
the eastern part of the country for months, even though it was reported there only in late December.
A team of experts, including representatives of the World Health Organization, accompanied by the Turkish health
minister, was scrambling to determine the full extent of the outbreaks. The group was heading by bus on Sunday to the
worst-hit areas in and around the city of Van, where the airport was closed by severe weather.
Four children from villages near Van, in remote eastern Turkey, have now been confirmed by the W.H.O. to be
infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the first human cases outside of East Asia. Like many people in those
poor villages, the four had had close contact with birds, health officials said, and probably were infected as a result.
Turkish officials announced Sunday that tests had confirmed five new cases of H5N1, two more in Van and three
around Ankara - two young brothers and an elderly man, according to Turan Buzgan, the Health Ministry's basic
The Ankara cases have the most alarming implications because bird flu had not been previously reported in that part of
the country, and it is a relatively well-off area, where it is not the norm for humans and animals to live under one roof.
The infected boys had contact with dead wild ducks, and the man with a dead chicken, said a ministry spokesman.
In addition to the confirmed cases, some 50 other people suspected of having the disease have been hospitalized, at
least 30 in the Van area and about 20 in Ankara, a Health Ministry spokesman said.
The W.H.O. said it had not been notified of the latest test results, and so could not confirm the new cases, said Maria
Cheng, a spokeswoman in Geneva. But she added that international scientists studying the H5N1
Turkey had detected no changes that might make it more contagious to humans. "It seems very much like the virus
we've seen in Western China," she said.
The cluster of cases in Turkey is extraordinary and a cause for concern, scientists said. In all of East Asia, where the
disease has been running rampant in birds for years, only about 140 people have been infected.
New reports of outbreaks among animals across Turkey were also rapidly increasing. By evening, the Agriculture