Turkish government accused of being too slow to respond to bird flu

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Friday, January 13, 2006

The Turkish government has come under fire from officials in Dogubayazit, where three siblings died from the H5N1 strain of Bird Flu, for not sending enough resources and not responding quickly enough in the region.

The mayor of Dogubayazit, Mukkades Kubilay, claims that the Turkish government sent only three doctors and that there were not enough workers to destroy poultry.

The government has been accused of doing too little, too late. H5N1 was discovered in Turkish poultry in December, 2005.

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker dismissed the claim, saying that culling of infected poultry began immediately following the discovery of H5N1 on December 15, 2005.

Questions about whether the government acted aggressively enough early in the outbreak emerged as officials tried to contain the disease, which Eker said had been confirmed in 11 of Turkey's 81 provinces and was suspected in 14 others.

The number of confirmed human cases of H5N1 in Turkey is 18. Three of those have died from the virus.

Several others with the virus have shown few symptoms or are in a stable condition. Authorities suggest that the strain may not be as deadly as first thought. Of those who contracted the virus in Asia, half died.

An eight-year-old child who became infected after playing with dying chickens has been released from hospital.

Nationwide, 355,000 birds have been slaughtered in an attempt to slow the outbreak.

The Agricultural ministry is complaining that it has only 24 workers in Dogubayazit, a city of 56,000, and culling could take up to a month to complete.

Experts are still warning of a possible pandemic, prompting the world bank to release US$500 million in aid to assist countries combat H5N1.

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