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Dangerous Bird Flu Strain Reaches Turkey

The European Union's health chief says the type of bird flu discovered in Turkey during the past week may be fatal in humans. The announcement follows the mass slaughter of birds thought to pose a risk after the disease surfaced earlier this week in Balikesir Province.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told a news conference in Brussels the avian flu virus detected in Turkey was of the deadly H5N1 strain that can be fatal to humans. He said test results on the outbreak in Turkey indicated a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia, and China.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003. There have been no reports of human fatalities in Turkey.

The European Union has banned all imports of birds and feathers from Turkey.

Turkish Health Minister Recep Ardag said there is no reason to panic. He said the Turkish government continued to take all necessary measures to ensure the disease remains under control. Mr. Ardag added that there had been no cases reported outside the affected village of Kiziska in northwestern Turkey.

He said that the government is drawing up a national action plan to cope with any outbreak of avian flu and that the plan is being enforced.

Turkish officials announced earlier they had nearly completed the cull of thousands of birds after an outbreak of bird flu in Kiziska was first announced. Officials say 6,000 chickens, turkeys, pigeons, and geese have been slaughtered in a three-kilometer zone around Kiziska, which remains under quarantine.

The health ministry has ordered fresh stocks on the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu in an effort to prevent a flu epidemic, a senior official said in remarks published in a Turkish newspaper.

Cases of avian influenza in Romania and Turkey have raised concern in the European Union, which fears the H5N1 virus could spread from Asia into the 25-nation bloc.