Turkey reports new outbreak of avian flu


Turkey has reported an outbreak of avian influenza in chickens, less than a month after declaring its territory free of the virus, and said it had culled 359 birds as a precautionary measure.

In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry said it had imposed quarantine in the affected area of Igdir, near Turkey's far eastern border with Armenia, after detecting a strain of the bird flu virus in dead chickens.

The strain has been identified as the H5 type but authorities are conducting further tests to establish whether it is the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed some 70 people in Asia since 2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of birds.

It said it had sent samples to the World Health Organization and the European Union for more tests.

"All necessary measures have been taken, with close coordination between central and local units," the ministry statement said. "As the necessary quarantine measures were undertaken before the identification (of bird flu), there is no cause for concern for human health, or for our country's meat and egg trade.".

Igdir is a remote, rural area where farming and animal husbandry are main means of livelihood. But poultry are mostly raised by people for their own consumption.

An outbreak of bird flu in October in more densely populated northwest Turkey triggered the culling of more than 10,000 birds. That outbreak was identified as the deadly H5N1 strain.

Most of Europe imposed a ban on imports of Turkish live birds which was subsequently eased.

The Agriculture Ministry announced on December 9th that it had successfully eliminated bird flu in western Turkey.

But experts say Turkey will remain vulnerable to further outbreaks because it lies on the flight path of migratory birds, which are widely thought to help spread the virus.

The ministry said it believed migratory birds may have brought the virus to Igdir from the Caucasus region.