Turkish authorities have quarantined a 10-kilometer (6-mile) zone near a town bordering Armenia after some 1,500 dead chickens tested positive for an H5 variant of bird flu, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday. The Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday the virus was first detected Monday following tests on samples taken from the town of Aralik, in the Igdir province bordering Armenia, where deaths of chickens have been reported in recent days.
Samples were to be sent to laboratories in Europe to see if the virus is H5N1, which is being tracked worldwide for fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted to humans, the ministry said. Authorities have culled close to 400 chickens and have banned the entry and exit of fowl into the area to prevent the virus from spreading, a local official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Turkish civil servants are not allowed to speak to the press without prior authorization.
A 10-kilometer (6-mile) zone was placed under quarantine, Anatolia reported, adding that the ministry had sent disinfectants and special equipment to the area. It was unclear what was involved in the quarantine, however in a previous bird flu case in western Turkey people were able to move around but cars and people leaving the area had to be disinfected.
The virus was detected after 1,559 birds died in Aralik and neighboring villages, according to Anatolia. Neighboring countries, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan, and international bodies would be notified, the ministry statement said.
The ministry statement said the virus was believed to have been brought to Turkey by birds migrating from Caucasus regions. Romanian authorities also quarantined a southeastern village Tuesday after detecting a new H5 bird flu case.
In October, Turkish authorities culled more than 10,000 poultry after they detected the deadly H5N1 virus in the northwestern town of Kiziksa, near Istanbul. Earlier this month, authorities said the threat of virus in that area was eliminated, but warned that migratory birds could still spread the flu elsewhere.
Since 2003, the strain of bird flu has ravaged flocks of birds in Asia and killed at least 71 people there, most of them farm workers in close contact with birds. I.L.