Turkish authorities are struggling to contain a bird flu epidemic among poultry which has spread to humans claiming the lives of three children. At least two of them fell victim to the virulent H5N1 strain. Mass culling is underway in the east of the country where the initial outbreaks were recorded in order to stop the virus which spreads quickly among chicken, killing them in a day.
After the eastern provinces of Erzincan and Bitlis, birdflu has now hit Bursa in the west. Turkish doctors gathered for a meeting in Istanbul said the spread of the disease to humans was inevitable as contact with poultry is part of daily life for many people in Turkey who live with the animals in their homes. The children who died had been seen playing with the heads of chicken slaughtered in the cull.
Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged people not to hide poultry to escape the culls and has promised compensation, but many farmers say it isn’tenough and that the government is reacting too late.
Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form of easily-transmitted human flu which could spark a global pandemic.