Avian flu: Between good and bad news
by Mavi Zambak
The good news is that three children have recovered from the bird flu; the bad news is that one girl died from it. For FAO, there still is time to prevent the flu from becoming endemic in Turkey as long as there are "enough resources".

Ankara (AsiaNews) – With chicken and turkey meat practically impossible to find in stores, Turks are going through a rollercoaster of good and bad news. On Saturday, there was real joy when a girl and a young woman went home after being hospitalised for the bird flu. Yesterday however, there was sorrow for the death of Fatma Ozcan. But time is of the essence

Juan Lubroth, a senior animal health officer with the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that "[w]e are still in time [. . .] to prevent the virus from being endemic in Turkey if the Turkish veterinary services have enough resources".

But this will be of small comfort to Fatma Ozcan's family. The 15-year-old girl died yesterday in a hospital in the city of Van. Her 5-year-old brother, Mohammed, is in the same hospital for the same reason.

Her death brings the total number of dead to three whilst another 18 are still infected with the virus.

Fortunately, 9-year-old Sumeye and her 18-year-old cousin were able to leave the Van hospital following days of anti-H5N1 treatment.

The treating doctor, Ahmat Faik Oner, said the two are now out of danger even though they must undergo further checks. He is satisfied that administering Tamiflu twice a day achieved the desired results.

In the city of Samsun on the Black Sea, 12-year-old Osman also went home after six days of the same treatment.

Altogether 291 people are still hospitalised in Turkey for suspected bird flu—33 people, including 24 children, are being treated for the disease.

The H5N1 virus has been found in 13 of Turkey's 81 provinces. News that the virus is genetically mutating is spreading across the country, but this may not pose any danger to humans for it would seem that the virus is getting less potent. Outside of the country it is another story. There are in fact growing fears that the flu might become endemic in the country.

Juan Lubroth does not share such fears . . . not yet at least. Just back from a mission to Turkey he remains confident that the worst can be avoided as long as adequate means are invested. He said he was more optimistic now because the Turkish government had made available more resources and personnel, notably with the involvement of provincial governors, to fight the virus. And this has improved the situation.