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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Three Human Bird Flu Cases In Ankara, Turkey?

According to the BBC News, two kids and one adult tested positive for bird flu in Ankara on Turkish tests. However, they don't come from Ankara, but from Beypazari about an hour away, and two dead ducks reportedly tested positive for H5N1 in that area. The Turkish authorities have been ferrying people to larger hospitals in ambulances. The seven in the Istanbul hospital all are reported negative. But these latest cases are across the country from Van, demonstrating the very worrisome reality that bird flu appears to be endemic in wild birds all through Turkey:

It is still not clear at all that this is H2H. From the very, very sparse information we now have it appears NOT to be passing from human to human, since, for example, the unfortunate parents (Dogubeyazit) which lost three of their children and have a fourth child still in intensive care are not ill. They told the press (contradicting earlier reports) that the children first became ill on the 31st of December. On the 29th they had killed and eaten a sick chicken. The first child to die was the one who killed the bird. The next two had plucked the bird. The youngest (who is still alive) had kicked the bird's head around like a ball. The mother cooked the bird, and she is not ill.

There are at least seven confirmed human cases, but this does not seem to include the third sibling who died. Two of those were confirmed on autopsy. Two other unrelated children were separately confirmed, although they are thankfully alive. That is four. Add the two uncofirmed siblings (one dead, one alive), and the three new cases in Ankara, and my count is nine, perhaps eight if the reporting is confused. The native language Turkish press continues to report far more people being treated for bird flu and in isolation at multiple locations. Eleven provinces are quarantined now.

WHO still has not gone to Van. First it was fog. Then it was reported as snow. Then it was adverse weather. Maybe they are holed up in an Ankara hotel swigging Tamiflu cocktails and playing "Name the Epidemic". Maybe the Turkish authorities don't want them there. (However, the Turks aren't covering this up.) So much for the rapid response team.

In the meantime Georgia (European Georgia) has a report of dead birds and an owner of those birds sick from respiratory disease. I don't think there is anything special about Turkey's vulnerability. I think Turkey is doing more to detect and report human cases than these other countries. There have, btw, been consistent reports of birds dying in northern Iran for four months.

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