ROME (AP) – The U.N. agriculture agency warned Wednesday that the H5N1 bird flu virus could become widespread among animals in Turkey and poses a serious risk to neighboring countries.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization noted that its warning focussed on animals. “We are talking about the virus circulating among animals here, we’re not talking about the human situation,” agency spokesman Erwin Northoff said.
In its statement, the FAO’s senior animal health officer, Juan Lubroth, said, “The virus may be spreading despite the control measures already taken.”
“Far more human and animal exposure to the virus will occur if strict containment does not isolate all known and unknown locations where the bird flu virus is currently present,” Lubroth said.
The Rome-based agency said in the statement it has sent a team of experts to Turkey, where preliminary tests indicate the virus has infected 15 Turks, including two children who have died.
The agency urged Turkey to apply a nationwide control campaign, and said that poultry in outbreak areas should only be moved with the permission of veterinarians.
Lubroth said control measures in the outbreak areas should include “humane culling, strict isolation and, if and when appropriate, vaccination.”
He stressed in the statement that immediate reporting of suspicious cases was the best safeguard against the outbreak spreading.
The FAO also called on Turkey’s neighbors, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Iran and Syria to put surveillance and control measures in place and make sure the public was fully informed about the bird flu risk.
The FAO statement was released as a World Health Organization official said Turkey had no reason to panic over the bird flu outbreak.
“There is no transmission from human being to human being through a mutation that could cause a pandemic. We are not there at this point,” said Dr. Marc Danzon, the U.N. health agency’s regional director for Europe.
In Turkey, all of the human bird flu cases appeared to have involved adults or children who touched or played with infected birds.
The WHO said earlier Wednesday that two more people sickened by bird flu in China have died, bringing the total number of humans killed by the disease in that country to five and pushing the death toll worldwide to 78.