Tests on birds in Iraqi province negative for bird flu

Tests on birds in Iraq's southern Nasiriyah province have turned up negative for bird flu, health officials said Monday.

The tests were conducted at a Baghdad lab after an 18-year-old woman suspected of being infected with the deadly H5N1 strain died Feb. 28 in the province about 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad, said Dr. Ibtisam Aziz Ali, spokeswoman for a government committee on bird flu.

Samples taken from the woman were sent to Cairo for additional tests, she said. Results were expected in two weeks.

Health officials are also awaiting test results on three suspected cases of bird flu in Baghdad residents and one in a town northeast of the capital.

At least one girl and her uncle have died of the disease in the Kurdish north since the first of the year. The virus has also been found in neighboring Iran and Turkey.

Officials in Iraq's Diyala province banned the import or export of birds and started culling flocks after a resident in Kifri, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Baghdad, fell ill with symptoms of the virus.

A similar alert was also declared in Maysan province, which includes some of Iraq's famous marshlands. U.S. and U.N. officials fear the deadly disease could spread rapidly if it reaches the area rich in bird life.

Bird flu has killed at least 94 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. The outbreak has also ravaged poultry populations as authorities slaughter millions of birds to try to stop the virus, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team