It is a new step in the westward spread of bird flu. As authorites cull poultry in eastern Turkey after the deaths of three children from the same family, the country says three other people have been diagnosed with the virulent H5N1 strain – this time in Ankara. They are said to be from a town around an hour’s drive from the capital.
At least two of the youngsters who died in Dogubayazit are also known to have had H5N1. In Bursa, in the west, bird flu has been reported in poultry. Most suspected human cases however remain in the east. At least 20 patients thought to be infected are being treated in hospital in the eastern city of Van. Two of them – both children – have tested positive for H5N1. The developments have sent shockwaves into neighbouring Iran where authorities are restricting cross-border travel with Turkey. “I was trying to go to Iran but they didn’t let us,” said one man who tried to cross the frontier. “They are saying we have the disease.” The World Health Organisation has not yet confirmed the cases of H5N1 in Ankara. But reports of these new infections, so far away from the previous outbreak, are sure to spread panic in Turkey and beyond. A team of WHO doctors is in the country to help investigate the deaths and look for any signs of transmission between humans. But harsh wintry weather in the Van region means travel conditions are difficult.