- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

From combined dispatches

ANKARA, Turkey — Bird flu has been discovered in Turkey for the first time since the recent outbreak of the disease in Asia, Turkish Farm Minister Mehdi Eker was quoted as saying yesterday.

CNN Turk television said that 2,000 turkeys had died of the disease on a farm in Balikesir province near the Aegean Sea in western Turkey. All animals on the farm had been slaughtered to prevent the disease from spreading, it added.

“Yesterday, unfortunately, we experienced a case of bird flu. But everything is under control, every precautionary measure has been taken to prevent it spreading,” CNN Turk quoted Mr. Eker as saying.

The minister gave no details of the outbreak. The figure of 2,000 bird deaths from the disease, cited by CNN Turk, appeared high for an initial finding in an outbreak.

The farm is located near a natural park known for its rich bird life.

CNN Turk quoted the provincial deputy governor, Halil Yavuz Kaya, as saying the turkeys could have contracted the disease from migratory birds. Animals were barred from going in and out of the village, he said.

Local officials have set up a crisis center and a health ministry team has gone to the area, CNN Turk added.

Romania yesterday reported new cases of avian flu in the Danube delta on the Black Sea and began culling hundreds of birds to prevent the disease from spreading, authorities said.

Three domestic ducks have died of bird flu in eastern Romania, but authorities said they had not confirmed whether the birds were infected by the H5N1 strain that specialists are tracking for fear it could mutate and spawn a human flu pandemic.

There are several strains of bird flu but only a few are deadly. Agriculture officials said they strongly suspected that tests now under way in Britain would confirm the birds were infected with H5N1.

If so, it would be the first time the virus strain has been detected in Europe.

Authorities worldwide are on alert for confirmed cases of fowl infected with H5N1 now circulating in parts of Asia.

H5N1 has infected 116 persons in Southeast Asia, killing 60 — but specialists are more worried the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people. That could trigger a human flu pandemic.

The best defense against a pandemic is to stamp out any outbreak in birds before the virus has a chance to mutate.

Dead birds were discovered in the remote eastern village of Ceamurlia de Jos near the Black Sea in late September, Romanian Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said.

Samples were sent to a lab in Bucharest, where scientists found antibodies to bird flu.

However, that lab did not have the capability to determine the exact strain of the virus, and sent the samples to Britain. Results were expected in the next few days.

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