Authorities sprayed a quarantined village where an outbreak of bird flu was detected with disinfectant Saturday, and authorities said that while the virus there had been contained, there was still a risk that migratory birds could cause new outbreaks elsewhere.
On the other side of the country, about 1,000 chickens out of a flock of about 6,000 died two days ago near the town of Patnos in the province of Agri near the border with Iran, Gov. Yusuf Yavascan said Saturday. Veterinarians did not suspect bird flu, but samples from the chickens were sent to a laboratory in nearby Erzurum for testing, Yavascan said. The area had not been placed under quarantine.
Up to 1,000 chickens were also reported to have died in the past 15 days in a village near Halfeti, a town in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa. Halfeti Governor Ahmet Odabas told Anatolia news agency that the chickens may have been poisoned from pesticides, adding that tests would determine the cause of death.
Television footage distributed by the CHA news agency showed people in Patnos hurling hundreds of dead chickens onto a truck using shovels or their bare hands, and not using any protective gear.
A European lab said Thursday that the virus found on a farm near the western Turkish village of Kiziksa, some 120 kilometers (80 miles) from Istanbul, was the deadly H5N1 strain that has decimated flocks in Asia and killed dozens of people there. Authorities around the world fear it could mutate into a form that can be passed among people, leading to a flu pandemic which some say could potentially kill millions.
Although H5N1 is highly contagious among birds, it is difficult for humans to contract. Still, it has killed about 60 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers infected directly by birds. Results on Saturday of tests on wild birds found dead in Romania's Danube delta confirmed they had died of the H5N1 strain, AP reports.
In Turkey, authorities in protective suits disinfected Kiziksa for the second time since the outbreak, spraying a mix of veterinary and other disinfectants from the back of a red tractor. In the village's back roads, some chickens could still be seen running around Saturday, a day after authorities had expected to complete the mandatory destruction of all poultry. Turkish officials insist the virus has been contained and a Health Ministry official said Saturday there was no longer a danger that virus detected at the farm could spread.
But experts believe the disease came from wild birds migrating through Turkey from the Ural Mountains in Russia to Africa, and Mustafa Altuntas, the head of an association of Turkish veterinarians, said there was a risk of new outbreaks in other parts of Turkey, especially near wetlands.
On Saturday, the Agriculture Ministry said lab results showed that around 15 pigeons found dead at a farm in Catalca, less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Istanbul earlier this week, did not die of bird flu. It did not say what caused their death.
EU officials agreed on new measures Friday aimed at preventing the disease from entering the bloc. Health officials say the disease is hard for humans to catch, and has so far predominantly affected poultry workers. Although no one has been diagnosed with the virus in Turkey, veterinary officials caution that is not because farmers have been taking precautions.
After the disease was found on the farm in Kiziksa, authorities ordered all poultry within a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius of the village to be delivered to authorities to be gassed, disinfected and buried.
Throughout the week, farmers could be seen marching across the village with sacks full of birds, pulling them out with their bare hands and insisting that their animals were "perfectly healthy." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged citizens to remain calm, saying too much had been made of the outbreak, AP reports.