Avian influenza claimed its fourth human victim in Turkey this week health officials have confirmed (January 16). Juan Lubroth with the U-N Food and Agriculture Organization says the H5N1 bird flu virus could become entrenched in the region through trade and movement of people and animals. He urges that countries neighboring Turkey closely monitor animal and human health.
All countries should review their country's contingency plans, strengthen their surveillance, and this includes their surveillance in wildlife, he says. It is possible that wild birds, may introduce the virus, but it is through human activities of commerce, and trade that the disease spreads.
Lubroth says risky farm practices like mixing poultry species in farms or in live markets, should be stopped immediately. FAO has established several networks, that are just starting now to offer assistance to many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to be able to see if and how the disease is spreading and to prevent further incursions of this virus.
Before the H5N1 virus could cause a human pandemic, it must first mutate to a form that can spread easily among people. Lubroth says there has been no evidence so far of human transmission in Eastern Europe or elsewhere. Turkey is the only country outside East Asia and China that has confirmed human bird flu deaths.