No evidence Turkey’s bird flu cases came from human-to-human contact, UN says

5 January 2006
Dr. David Nabarro

A United Nations team is heading today for Turkey to help investigate two deaths from bird flu and nine hospitalized cases, the first outside East Asia, but no evidence so far would suggest that the cases represent human-to-human transmission, David Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, said today.

A United Nations team is heading today for Turkey to help investigate two deaths from bird flu and nine hospitalized cases, the first outside East Asia, but no evidence so far would suggest that the cases represent human-to-human transmission, David Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, said today.

In response to a request from the Turkish Government, a team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Commission (EC) will work with the authorities in investigating the situation in the eastern part of the country, where the nine other patients have been hospitalized.

A WHO collaborating centre in the United Kingdom is now analyzing samples from the infected people.

According to Mr. Nabarro, the report confirms the absolute need for continued local, national and international vigilance, as well as intensive efforts to detect and respond to suspected outbreaks of the disease.

WHO said the first two cases were teenage siblings from the rural district of Dogubayazit, in the eastern province of Agri, which borders Iran and Armenia. One died on New Year’s Day and the other today. Turkish authorities had at first ruled out avian influenza in these cases based on preliminary test results from nose and throat samples, but they later diagnosed avian flu from lung samples.

Initial information about the confirmed cases suggests that the children acquired the infection after contact with chickens. Chickens recently died in the Dogubayazit district. Although no poultry influenza outbreak was officially reported there, a confirmed outbreak of H5N1 avian flu in chickens and ducks was reported on 27 December in the adjacent province of Igdir.

National authorities told WHO that culling is underway in Dogubayazit district, which has also been placed under quarantine with no people or animals allowed to move in or out.

Since January 2004, a total of 142 human cases of H5N1 infection have been reported in Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and China.

Turkey reported its first outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in mid-October of last year. That outbreak, which occurred in the northwestern part of the country, was attributed to contact between domestic poultry and migratory waterfowl. Igdir, which has several large lakes, also lies along migratory routes.

 

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