Turkey trying to determine if girl died of bird flu; brother tests positive for H5N1
VAN, Turkey – A 12-year-old girl whose younger brother tested positive for bird flu died on Sunday, and Turkish authorities were trying to determine whether she was the latest victim of the virus.The girl, Fatma Ozcan, had been in contact with sick birds but preliminary tests came back negative for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the Health Ministry said. Authorities nonetheless suspected the virus caused her death and were conducting further tests.Dr. Huseyin Avni Sahin said the girl and her 5-year-old brother, from the nearby town of Dogubayazit, were admitted to his hospital in the eastern city of Van five days earlier. Both children had been in contact with fowl and apparently ate a sickened chicken, Sahin said.”She was brought to hospital with respiration problems very late,” Sahin said. “We immediately began treatment for bird flu since she had contacted fowl, but her condition has become grave and we lost her today.”The girl’s brother, Muhammet Ozcan, was in serious condition, officials said. Another doctor, Ahmet Faik Oner, said he “has a fever and the infection in his lung is light; it’s not advancing.”The Health Ministry said the latest test results on the sick boy brought to at least 19 the number of people in Turkey known to have contracted the H5N1 strain, including three siblings who died last week in the Van hospital. Those three were from the same town as the Ozcan children.Health officials have said all those with confirmed H5N1 infections apparently had touched or played with sick birds and that there was no evidence of person-to-person infection.The World Health Organization is examining the cases closely as it tracks how the virus may be changing. Health experts are concerned that the virus, which first appeared in Asia in 2003, could mutate into a form that is spread easily among humans.The three fatalities in Turkey last week were the first known deaths from the virus outside Asia, where at least 77 people have died from bird flu since the outbreak began, according to WHO’s tally.Turkish authorities on Sunday continued slaughtering thousands of birds nationwide as a precaution.The Turkish government on Saturday set up a committee to make urgent recommendations to save the country’s $3 billion poultry industry, which employs about 100,000 people. At least 455,000 domestic birds have been killed, and bird flu in birds is now confirmed or suspected in 26 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.—Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.