Fourth Bird Flu Death Reported in Turkey
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And I'm Alex Chadwick.
Bird flu has claimed another human life this weekend in Turkey. Twelve-year-old girl Fatma Ozcan became the fourth person to die of the disease in Turkey. Turkish Health Ministry has already confirmed 20 human cases of bird flu so far. Many Turkish citizens have been tested for the bird flu virus. Earlier I spoke with NPR's Ivan Watson in Turkey.
Ivan, tell us, what are the characteristics that link the bird flu victims there in Turkey? By region? By family? What?
IVAN WATSON reporting:
Well, it has been found in humans in eastern and central Turkey, but there is one town in particular, a border town on the eastern border with Iran, called Dogubayazit, very close to Mt. Ararat, and that is where the only fatalities have come from. Earlier this month three teen-agers from a single family all eventually succumbed to the virus, and yesterday there was a 12-year-old girl who also has tested positive for the bird flu virus. She passed away yesterday in a regional hospital. Her five-year-old brother has also tested positive, but he is in stable condition, the World Health Organization says.
So it has been detected in different parts of Turkey, but there is one particular cluster where people have fallen victim. The World Health Organization says that the most vulnerable people here are children, it seems, and, of course, people who are in close contact with sick poultry. And in the cases of these fatalities and in the cases of all 20 people who have tested positive, there has been some kind of contact either with a sick chicken or some kind of sick wild bird or with clothes that have been contaminated by those animals.
CHADWICK: So even though it's bad news there's another fatality, at least it doesn't appear to be this thing that people have been worried about, which is human-to-human propagation of the disease.
WATSON: No. And that's the big fear. That's the scenario that people are scared of; that the virus could mutate and become more contagious by passing from human to human, which, of course, could spread much faster than something where you actually need to be in close contact with a chicken or with poultry. And that's why some of these rural areas are more dangerous, because virtually every house in some of these rural villages people own a dozen chickens or more or turkeys, and the children play with these animals as pets. And in the winter, the WHO is saying, they may be more susceptible as well because people are in confined places; they're trying to stay indoors for warmth, and as a result, they may be closer to some of these barnyard animals.
CHADWICK: What is the government doing to try to control this?
WATSON: There's a couple steps they're taking; one is to try to kill off the potentially infected bird population, particularly in the far east of Turkey. They're going house to house collecting all of the chickens and ducks and turkeys and basically killing them. They're also going to try to isolate chicken farms, larger industrial farms, to make sure that the disease can't spread there. There's also an education front. They're trying to spread the word, `Stay away from your sick birds. Quarantine them. Call the authorities to come and take care of them. Don't come in close contact.' And that message is going out through state television and radio, as well as even through mosques that's going out.
CHADWICK: NPR's Ivan Watson reporting from Istanbul, Turkey. Ivan, thank you.
WATSON: You're welcome, Alex.
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