More Cases of Bird Flu Emerge in Turkey
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Health officials in Turkey say they've identified new cases of bird flu across the country. The discovery follows the deaths last week of three children in the same family; two of those deaths confirmed as bird flu. These were the first cases of the virus transmitted from birds to humans outside China and Southeast Asia. NPR's Ivan Watson is in the Turkish city of Van, about 500 miles east of Ankara.
And, Ivan, what is the World Health Organization saying about bird flu cases in Turkey? Are they the same numbers?
IVAN WATSON reporting:
Renee, I just spoke with a spokeswoman from the World Health Organization, part of a team that's out in this region where the bird flu virus was first discovered in humans and she says the latest number is 14 cases in humans here in Turkey detected as of today. The ominous development yesterday, of course, were three cases reported in humans, hundreds of miles west of here around Ankara, two young boys, siblings, and a 65-year-old man. The virus appears to have leapt hundreds of miles and that's of serious concern to health officials here.
MONTAGNE: So what measures are being taken given these discoveries?
WATSON: Well, here in Van, vehicles are being sprayed with disinfectant at the entrance to the city. There's an emergency office that's been set up by the Turkish government with a phone hot line that's being advertised in media. People can call in if they see loose poultry for the--poultry to be slaughtered. There's also been several thousand doses of the drug Tamiflu that have been shipped here. That is believed to be able to battle this disease.
MONTAGNE: Now last week's deaths, it all began with a boy and his sister who died. What else do you know about that?
WATSON: That is believed to have been a case of bird-to-human transfer or transmission of the disease. Two of the children have been confirmed to have died from the H5N1 virus of bird flu and the third is also suspected of dying from the same disease. They are reported to have been playing with a chicken head and it's suspected that that's how they got the disease. Out here in this undeveloped far east of Turkey, the local rural population does live in very close contact with farm animals and there is interaction with chickens and it's believed that that's how the disease is being transmitted. And that's being investigated right now by the World Health Organization team. The fear is, is that this may change and could transfer from person to person. That could signal the start of a flu pandemic.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR's Ivan Watson in Turkey's eastern city of Van.
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