The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today said it will send an expert team to Iraq to examine reports of a fatal case of avian influenza, or “bird flu,” in the war-ravaged country.
Iraq’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that a 15-year old girl died who died on 17 January had been diagnosed with bird flu.
A WHO team will leave tomorrow for Suliamaniya in northern Iraq where the girl, her uncle and a third suspected case have been found.
Meanwhile, the virus has been confirmed in neighbouring Turkey. A WHO collaborating laboratory in the United Kingdom has confirmed that 12 of the 21 cases that were suspected from Turkey were indeed bird flu. Four people have died.
Worldwide, the disease has killed 79 people and led to the slaughter of millions of chickens in an effort to prevent further transmission from birds to humans. So far, the virus has not spread among humans, but WHO has warned that it could change into a form that spreads easily from person to person, triggering an influenza pandemic which could kill tens of millions of people worldwide.