Azerbaijan asks European Commission for help

Azerbaijan said Thursday it has asked the European Commission for help in fighting bird flu. The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was discovered in Azerbaijan this month in an area along the Caspian Sea coast near the capital, Baku.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov announced the request for help after meeting with European Union External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. At a news conference, he did not specify what aid had been asked for, but said "we will carry out wider cooperation in this area."

Ferrero-Waldner said she would relay the request to the EU's commissioner for sanitation and health "to see what we can do to give assistance and work with you on preventive measures."

No cases of humans infected by bird flu have been recorded in Azerbaijan. The country shares a short border with Turkey, where four children died recently of the disease.

Bird flu has killed at least 91 people in Asia and Turkey since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all of the human deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, possibly sparking a human flu pandemic, reports the AP.

I.L.