Turkish officials put nine people under medical observation after bird flu detected in Turkey

Turkish officials put nine people under medical observation after reports that 40 pigeons in their neighborhood mysteriously died, as officials confirmed that earlier bird deaths were caused by a virulent strain of bird flu, authorities said Friday. In Kiziksa, where the earlier deaths occurred, veterinary officials in protective suits were culling the few remaining birds in the village.

Officials already have culled some 8,600 birds in the western Turkish village and vowed to kill all within a three kilometer (two mile) radius surrounding Kiziksa as a precaution against the spread of the highly contagious H5N1 strain of the avian flu. A veterinary official said Friday the work would finish later in the evening.

In the neighboring province of Manisa, authorities put nine people under medical surveillance on Thursday after a man reported that some 40 pigeons had died within the past two weeks, the Anatolia news agency reported Friday. Samples had been sent to a laboratory in Izmir, western Turkey, to test for the bird flu virus, the agency said.

There have been several other reports of unexplained bird deaths in Turkey but except for the deaths in Kiziksa, none has proven to have been caused by bird flu.

Osman Ozturk, deputy head of the Manisa health department, said "there is no sign of illness in the nine people," adding that they had been put under medical observation as a precaution. Ozturk said the house where the people lived was disinfected, also as a precaution.

In Kiziksa, chickens ran around dirt back roads Friday, pointing to the difficulties in trying to contain an outbreak of the disease. Authorities have established an observation ring around the village, and are concerned that the virus could spread to the some 10 million chickens on farms in the region, an official said.

Bird flu was detected after 1,800 turkeys died on a farm in the village, which is 120 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Istanbul. An EU official confirmed Thursday that the disease was the H5N1 virus, which scientists worry might mutate into a human virus and spark a pandemic. The culling is being carried out as a precaution, reports the AP. I.L.

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