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Bird flu in Turkey following Asia's pattern

Bird flu in Turkey following Asia's pattern of poultry-to-human transmission, UN expert says

10 January 2006 – A United Nations bird flu expert examining an outbreak in Turkey today said the disease seems to be spreading from poultry to humans as it did in Asia, and called for stepped-up efforts to monitor its course.

“There is no evidence to suggest any difference in the disease pattern than what we have previously seen for H5N1,” said Dr. Guenael Rodier, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Special Adviser on Communicable Diseases, referring to the virus that causes avian influenza.

“More work needs to be done, however, particularly in terms of isolation in hospitals, and in the description of factors causing the spread of infection,” he told reporters via teleconference from Ankara.

Dr. Rodier cautioned that it is too early to make any final conclusions, but stressed that “the situation is very similar to the one that we have experienced in Asia.”

Transmission in Turkey, he said, appeared to be occurring among families with children. “This may mean that infection occurred because children were playing with dead or infected chickens,” said Dr. Rodier, who is leading a team of WHO and European officials in Turkey.

Various experts in veterinary science and epidemiology are investigating the reason for the outbreak. “After coordinating with the laboratory in London, we will have a better idea of the cause,” he said.

While emphasizing that the cases indicate that infection in humans has occurred due to “clear documented contact with poultry,” he cautioned that “we anticipate we could expect potential human cases if the disease is not controlled in animals.”

Another disturbing trend is the more efficient transmission from animals to humans. “With the emergence of new outbreaks, the challenge is to control the disease in animals,” said Dr. Rodier, who called for continuous efforts to monitor the situation.

“The virus in birds is unlikely to disappear quickly. Without watching, we will not be able to prevent new outbreaks.”

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