First cases of bird flu in Turkey

Turkey's agriculture minister on Saturday confirmed the country's first cases of bird flu and officials ordered all winged animals and street dogs in the village where it was detected destroyed as a precaution against the disease spreading, the Anatolia news agency said.

Military police have also set up roadblocks at the entrance to the village near Balikesir in western Turkey and are checking all vehicles entering and exiting, Anatolia said. The birds belonged to a turkey farmer, CNN-Turk reported, saying that 2,000 birds died. Anatolia did not cite a number, but said that any animals that did not die of the disease were destroyed.

The outbreak was confirmed by Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who said that Turkish officials had been communicating with officials in the European Union and other international organizations about the outbreak, Anatolia reported. Eker did not specify how many birds died of the disease.

The outbreak was first brought to officials' attention on Wednesday, Anatolia said. On Thursday, officials went to the village and destroyed all the birds on the turkey farm that were still alive and buried them, then disinfected the area, Anatolia said. Anatolia, quoting officials, said that on Friday it was confirmed that the birds in Turkey died of the H5 type of bird flu.

That would suggest the scientists have narrowed it down to an H5 type virus _ the family of the bird flu virus that experts are watching _ but have not narrowed it further to determine whether it is the exact strain H5N1 that health officials are particularly worried about.

Officials from the Health Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry were sent to investigate, CNN-Turk reported. They ordered all winged animals in the village destroyed Saturday, saying that farmers would be compensated for their losses, Anatolia said. The farmer whose birds carried the disease said he had not been checked by doctors yet, and was scared to go near his wife and children, Anatolia reported.

Eker said the flu was likely carried by birds migrating from the Ural Mountains, which divide Europe and Asia, across Turkey and into Africa. Cases of bird flu were also confirmed Saturday in Romania, which borders Turkey. There are several strains of bird flu but only a few are deadly. Experts are tracking the H5N1 strain, for fear it could mutate and spawn a human flu pandemic.

H5N1 has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 60 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the deaths of more than 100 million birds. The virus does not pass from person to person easily, but experts believe it could mutate to a form that becomes a human flu virus, passing easily between people and triggering a pandemic, AP reports.

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