- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

KIZIKSA, Turkey (Agence France-Presse)

Turkey slaughtered more fowl yesterday after a bird-flu outbreak on a northwestern farm as producers put a brave face on the economic fallout from bans on Turkish exports to the European Union and other countries.

The killing of fowl continued also in Romania, where officials fear several birds might have been infected, bringing the deadly virus into Europe.

In the village of Kiziksa, in Turkey’s Balikesir province, veterinary workers wearing white overalls, gloves and masks toured in trucks to collect birds before gassing and burying them in lime pits.

Officials also were checking about 550,000 birds on farms within a surveillance zone 9 miles across, outside a 4-mile-diameter quarantine zone around the turkey farm where the first bird-flu case in Turkey was confirmed last weekend.

“I believe there are some 3,000 more birds to be slaughtered,” said Selahattin Kokcu, the head of the local farming department. “The teams are continuing to work and I expect the slaughter to finish today or Wednesday.”

About 6,000 birds will be killed in all, he said.

The slaughter continued amid protests by locals, many of whom surrendered their animals to a gas machine set up in the village center only after officials warned villagers not to hide their birds.

“I brought my healthy hens here and gave them away just like that,” lamented a villager who said he brought 15. “I slaughtered 25 others at home and ate one of them with great relish.”

Ankara says no human has been infected, and has given assurances that the disease is contained in Kiziksa.

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, however, warned that the virus, thought to have been brought by migratory birds attracted to a nearby nature reserve, also might crop up in the south of the country.

Officials insisted that banning Turkish poultry exports to the European Union would not have a major economic impact because the country’s sales to the Continent already were negligible.

“The bird flu will not affect Turkey’s export targets,” said Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen, though he conceded that exports might “temporarily falter,” Anatolia news agency reported.

Poultry producers also ruled out a major impact.

“Our firms for the moment do not export live or butchered poultry to the EU,” said Zuhal Dastan, head of an association grouping 18 major producers dominating the sector.

He also played down the cost of the slaughter.

“For the moment, we are only talking of a few thousand birds,” he said.

In Romania, officials awaited the results of tests on three ducks thought to be infected with bird flu, and continued to kill fowl in Ceamurlia de Jos, on the Danube delta, a major European bird reserve.

“The first tests did not allow us to pinpoint the virus, and new tests will have to be conducted during the day,” said Public Health Directorate official Rodina Costina.

“Apparently, even if the test results are positive, it would appear that this is a weakly pathogenic virus,” she said, adding that no other suspicious cases have been found apart from the three ducks.

Three EU specialists who arrived Monday to assist Romania, meanwhile, went to Ceamurlia de Jos yesterday morning, several sources said.

In Turkey, specialists said that samples from infected animals tested positive for the H5 virus, but it was not known whether it was the H5N1 strain, considered particularly dangerous.

The H5N1 virus has been found mainly in 10 Southeast Asian countries and has infected 112 persons, of whom more than 60 have died, the World Health Organization reports.

Scientists have warned that millions of people around the world could die if the virus crosses with human flu strains to become a lethal and contagious disease.

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