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Deadly Bird Flu Strain Found in Turkish Poultry

The European Commission says that a strain of bird flu virus found in poultry in Turkey is the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed at least 60 people in Asia. And scientists are conducting tests to see if a form of bird flu found in Romania is also the deadly strain.

In Brussels, EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said Thursday that test results on the outbreak in Turkey indicated a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia, and China.

Mr. Kyprianou said officials are considering warning people traveling to countries where the disease has been diagnosed to avoid going to farms or other places where they might be exposed to wild birds.

Migratory birds can transmit the virus to domestic poultry. So the EU has banned the import of live birds, poultry meat, and feathers from Romania for at least six months, after tests revealed a strain of the bird flu virus in dead birds from the Danube Delta.

The samples are being sent to Britain for further testing. Romania's agriculture minister says, so far, there are no indications the strain found in Romania is the deadly H5N1 variety. But animal health experts think there is every reason to believe it is.

H5N1 does not easily infect humans, but 117 people, mostly poultry workers, have caught the strain over the past two years. At least 60 of those people have died. Scientists fear the virus could human to human.

Governments around the world have been stockpiling anti-viral medications, most notably Tamiflu, after the World Health Organization recommended they do so, in the event of a pandemic.

Mr. Kyprianou says the EU is considering forming a $1.2 billion (US) "solidarity fund" to help finance the creation of anti-viral drugs, and assisting pharmaceutical companies in that effort.

In the meantime, he says people at high risk for the flu, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, should get flu shots this year. "We advocate the increase of vaccination among the risk population for the seasonal flu in any event,"

EU experts on avian influenza and migratory birds will hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday.