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Turkey: UN warns bird flu virus may become endemic

UN agency warns bird flu virus could become endemic in Turkey

11 January 2006 – Bird flu could become endemic in Turkey and poses a serious risk to neighbouring countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

“The virus may be spreading despite the control measures already taken,” said Juan Lubroth, Senior Animal Health Officer at the Rome-based agency.

“Far more human and animal exposure to the virus will occur if strict containment does not isolate all known and unknown locations where the bird flu virus is currently present,” he added.

The agency also called on Turkey’s neighbours, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Iran and Syria to be on high alert and ensure that the public was fully informed about the risk of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1.FAO has sent a team of experts to Turkey.

In New York, the UN’s overall bird flu coordinator, Dr. David Nabarro, praised the Turkish response to the disease but said globally more than a billion dollars was needed to help countries put bird flu programmes in place.

“The funds required by the World Bank and others in their efforts come to a total of around $1.4-$1.5 billion…we need to be looking for significantly over a billion,” Dr. Nabarro, who is the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, said at a news conference today, while cautioning that those figures were only estimates.

Dr. Nabarro said he was hopeful that this amount would be pledged by donors at an international conference on the disease to be held in Beijing on 17 and 18 January, although this would only be a “beginning” towards what was required to fight the virus.

Two Turkish teenagers are confirmed to have died from bird flu and several other people have been hospitalized in what is to date the first outside East Asia. The European head of the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in Ankara today to discuss the situation with Turkish authorities.

WHO said the visit by Dr. Marc Danzon, its Regional Director for Europe, aims to assure the Government of Turkey of the agency’s support in containing the outbreak.

Since January 2004, a total of 142 human cases of H5N1 infection have been reported in Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and China.

Turkey reported its first outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in mid-October of last year. That outbreak was attributed to contact between domestic poultry and migratory waterfowl.

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