The specter of bird flu once again raised its head on the borders of Europe when doctors confirmed early Thursday that a second teenager had died of the disease in Turkey, a day after her brother.
Fears of a bird flu pandemic increase on news of deaths in Turkey
Two people from the same family have died from bird flu at a hospital in eastern Turkey, the first known fatalities from the deadly disease outside Southeast Asia and China, a doctor there said Thursday.
The latest victim was a sister of a 14-year-old boy who died of bird flu Sunday in the same hospital in the town of Van, the doctor, Ahmet Faik Oner, was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
He said the girl, Fatma Kocyigit, whose age was not released, died early Thursday morning after her condition became critical on Wednesday. "Two people have therefore died of bird flu in Van," the doctor said.
Authorities confirmed late Wednesday that the boy, Muhammed Ali Kocyigit, had died from bird flu. It was the first known human fatality from the disease outside Southeast Asia and China, where it has killed more than 70 people since late 2003, nearly 40 of them in 2005 alone.
Seven other people, including two other members of the Kocyigit family, are still being treated in Van for bird flu-like symptoms.
Health Minister Recep Akdag said Wednesday night that members of the family had eaten diseased chickens.
Family's village on the flightpath of migratory birds
A Turkish vet disinfects the area where slaughtered chickens were buried in the village of Kiziksa.
The Kocyigit family is from the remote town of Dogubeyazit, near Turkey's borders with Iran and Armenia and about 100 km (60 miles) south of Aralik, a village on the flight path of migratory birds blamed for the spread of the epidemic.
Aralik was put under quarantine last week after fowl there tested positive for the H5 strain of bird flu.
Officials were still awaiting the results of further tests being conducted in London to determine whether any of some 750 birds slaughtered in the village suffered from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which can be deadly to humans.
First H5N1 case in Turkey reported in October
The first case of H5N1 in the country was uncovered in October at a turkey farm in Kiziksa, a village in the northeastern province of Balikesir, abutting a wildlife reserve that is a well-known stopover for migratory birds.
Officials in Ankara said on December 9 that they had eradicated the avian flu virus in that region after testing thousands of samples and culling 10,000 birds.
Experts say the feared H5N1 virus could merge with human strains of flu to create a global outbreak that could kill millions of people around the world.