British labs confirm two Turkish teenagers who died had bird flu

A British laboratory has found that two Turkish teenagers who died earlier this week had bird flu, officials said Friday, and a health official in Geneva said scientists were closing in on identifying the virus as the deadly &to=' target=_blank>H5N1 strain.

"If it's confirmed, these would be the first human cases outside China and Southeast Asia," World Health Organization spokeswoman Christine McNab told the AP.

The strain has already killed more than 70 people in East Asia since 2003. Authorities are closely monitoring H5N1 for fear it could mutate into a form easily passed among humans and spark a pandemic.

Birds in Turkey, Romania, Russia and Croatia have recently tested positive for H5N1.

An 11-year-old girl died Friday of suspected bird flu in eastern Turkey _ days after her teenage brother and sister succumbed to the disease _ and their doctor said they probably contracted the illness by playing with dead chickens.

A British laboratory confirmed the two teenagers who died had suffered from bird flu, but that tests had not yet been completed in order to determine whether it was the H5N1 strain, said a Turkish health ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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