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Europe On High Bird Flu Alert: European Commission

Health officials in Europe have expressed the ‘high alert’ situation, following confirmation of three bird flu deaths in Turkey and hospital admission of several others// (26) believed to be afflicted with the disease. In addition, this situation has prompted fears of a human-human transmission.

The health officials have undertaken strict monitoring of the bird flu spread from East Asia to the European border. A clinical laboratory situated in England, had pointed out to the possibility of infection with the most dangerous H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus. Further tests on other individuals would be carried out in due time.

"I'm not sure we've seen a cluster like this in terms of numbers, and certainly it's a concern. Is the virus being transmitted more easily from birds to humans, or even from humans to humans? We need to put all the pieces together before we can come to conclusions", said Maria Cheng, spokeswoman for the Division of epidemic Preparedness at the World Health Organization.

Reports of infection have so far been documented in individuals in close contact with dead or sick chickens. Although a human-human bird flu transmission possibility has been ruled out in Turkey, the fear regarding viral mutation and global pandemic still exists.

In response to the situation, a team of scientists would be directed to Turkey this week. People in Europe are not particularly at high risk of contracting the disease unless; there is close contact with diseased domestic birds.

"Europe is on high alert. But unless there is new information, the risk still lies with people who are in contact with sick birds”, said Christine McNab, a spokeswoman in the Director General's office of the W.H.O.

"There is naturally panic among locals who believed for many years that there was no harm in eating dead poultry. Now is the time to change their habits without any delay in light of these casualties", said Prof. Ahmet Faik Oner, Head of the Van University Hospital childcare unit.

"In rural communities, whether in Vietnam or Turkey, people live very close to poultry. When a bird is prepared for a meal, the whole family is involved. It's a horrible virus, but in the early stages it's like any pneumonia. When people are scared they have a lower threshold for going to the hospital. It's a natural reaction ", said Dr. Farrar, director of the Oxford University Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

"Especially in rural areas, we need to do more to get the message out," said Ms. Cheng, the W.H.O. spokeswoman.

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