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Farm boy's death raises human bird flu fears in Turkey

A 14-year-old Turkish boy who worked on a poultry farm and was one of six people tested for bird flu died on Sunday, and his sister was in a critical // and worsening condition, doctors said.

Doctors are still waiting for test results and could not immediately confirm whether the fatality was caused by bird flu. If confirmed, it would be the first human fatality in Turkey from the virus H5N1.

Six people, five of them children, have been tested for the bird flu virus in the past two days after suffering from fever and pneumonia-like symptoms.

The dead boy, Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, was one of four children, two brothers and two sisters, aged between six and 15, admitted to hospital in the south east of Turkey on Saturday after developing high fever, coughing, and bleeding in the throat. They helped to raise poultry on a farm, where they were in close contact with sick birds and reportedly became ill after eating one of them. One of his sisters was said to be in a critical condition last night, and was worsening.

Birds in Turkey, Romania, Russia and Croatia recently tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain in birds, but no human cases have been detected.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has been transferred to humans several times by proximity to infected birds and bird droppings, with lethal results, but mainly in the far-east. Bird meat poses no threat unless it is undercooked.

A local official said as a precaution, the passage of any poultry into or out of the district was forbidden.

Announcements were being made in the district that poultry should not be eaten.

Turkish authorities said last week that some chickens had tested positive for an H5 variant of bird flu. Parts of the town of Aralik, near the border with Armenia, have been placed under quarantine. The children in the suspected outbreak live in the town of Dogubayazit, 40 miles south of Aralik.

Since 2003, the strain of bird flu has spread through flocks of birds in Asia and killed at least 71 people, most of them farm workers in close contact with birds. Birds in Turkey, Romania, Russia and Croatia recently tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain in birds, but no human cases have been detected.


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