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Bird Flu Spreading in Turkey

15 Confirmed Human Cases; All Patients Had Contact With Diseased Birds
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 11, 2006 -- Bird flu continues to spread among people living in Turkey.

Turkey is the first country outside the Far East to have confirmed human cases of bird flu, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Human cases of bird flu have also been confirmed by the WHO in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China, and Indonesia.

The WHO has confirmed 15 human cases of bird flu in Turkey. Those cases include two children from the same family who died of bird flu. A third child from the same family has also died, but the WHO hasn't confirmed that that death was due to bird flu.

Contact With Birds

All of the Turkish patients apparently had direct contact with sick or dead birds. For instance, the Turkish children who died reportedly had played with dead chickens.

"All evidence to date indicates that patients have acquired their infections following close contact with diseased birds," states the WHO about the bird flu situation in Turkey.

Residents of Turkey are being urged by the WHO and the Turkish government to avoid direct contact with sick or dead poultry -- and not to panic about bird flu.

Bird flu is still rare among people. The virus that causes the illness (called the H5N1 virus) doesn't seem to be very good at spreading between people. If that changes, it could lead to an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu.

WHO: No Reason to Panic

The WHO's regional director for Europe, Marc Danzon, MD, traveled to Turkey in a show of support and to calm fears about bird flu. "There is no reason to panic," Danzon said at a news conference in Turkey, according to the Associated Press.

Danzon also reportedly noted that the H5N1 virus doesn't seem to be passing between people in Turkey.

No Travel Restrictions

The WHO isn't recommending any travel restrictions for people traveling to or from areas affected by the H5N1 virus.

Travelers to affected areas aren't considered to be at high risk of infection unless they have "direct and unprotected exposure to infected birds," the WHO states.

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