Turkish plane carrying U.S. bird flu experts returns to airport after detecting malfunction

A plane carrying a team of U.S. government flu experts was forced to return to an airport in eastern Turkey Saturday after detecting a malfunction, an official said Saturday.

The team was on its way to the city of Van, near the border with Iran, where four children have died after becoming infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus. The plane was forced to return to Erzurum airport.

A total of 21 people have been confirmed positive for the strain in Turkey.

The 11-member team is touring affected areas to assess what help the United States can provide to help Turkey combat the outbreak.

An U.S. embassy official accompanying the team said the experts would fly to Van later on Saturday. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, AP reported. V.A.