01/09/2006, 00.00
TURKEY

Bird flu reaches Istanbul

Samples from chicken found dead on the European side of the city confirm the westward movement of the virus.

Ankara (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Bird flu has been detected in dead chicken in Istanbul, confirming the westward movement of the virus, which has already killed three people in eastern Turkey, officials said on Sunday.

Samples from chicken found dead in the district of Kucukcekmece, on Istanbul's European side, tested positive for avian influenza, but it was not yet clear whether it was the lethal H5N1 strain, agriculture ministry spokesman Faruk Demirel said.

Istanbul is the westernmost point of Turkey where the virus has been detected since last month when it resurfaced in remote regions, some 1,500 kilometres to the east.

The first outbreak, in a fowl farm in the northwest, was successfully contained in October.

The three deaths from the H5N1 strain in Turkey last week marked the first human fatalities from bird flu outside Southeast Asia and China, where the disease has killed more than 70 people since 2003. Seven other Turks, all but one of them children, have been confirmed as H5N1 carriers, including three cases in the capital Ankara. Earlier on Sunday, officials reported cases of bird flu in two other western regions: Zonguldak e Yozgat.

The agriculture ministry said bird flu among winged animals had now been confirmed in 10 of Turkey's 81 provinces.

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