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World conference seeks funds to combat epidemic
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-18 06:16

"We live on the same planet and our destinies are interconnected," Qiao said. "In the fight against avian influenza, no country can stay safe by looking the other way."

David Nabarro, senior United Nations system coordinator for avian and human influenza, yesterday said the international community has made headway in working out a comprehensive control strategy, preventing the infection from spreading to humans, and setting up international technology networks.

"Unless we are working as one, we don't get a good result," Nabarro said. "We are being put to the test like never before Working together, we can reduce death rates and the economic impact both of avian flu and a future pandemic."

Turkey reports 21st human case

Turkey announced that another child was diagnosed with bird flu, raising to 21 the number of human cases in the country, including four teenagers already dead and a boy in worsening health.

A team of experts from the United States began work in Turkey Tuesday to help local officials in their efforts to stem the outbreak as the Turkish government said it had the situation under control.

The Turkish health ministry identified the new case of H5N1 infection as a child from the remote eastern town of Dogubeyazit, near the border with Iran, from where the four dead also hailed.

The child, aged four-and-a-half years, fell sick after eating chicken and was put under intensive care in a hospital in the eastern city of Erzurum after he began to suffer difficulties in breathing, said the head of the hospital, Akin Aktas, according to the Anatolia news agency.

"The patient's general condition is good," Aktas said of the latest case, without specifycing whether the patient was a boy or a girl.

Meanwhile, in Van, further east, five-year-old Muhammed Ozcan, the brother of one of the four victims, was reported in deteriorating condition.

"The infection in his lungs advanced a bit more last night," Huseyin Avni Sahin, the chief physician of the Van hospital, told AFP by telephone. "His condition is now worse than yesterday."

The boy, described as the gravest case so far among the H5N1 carriers under treatment, did not require an artifical respirator yet, he said.

The disease has killed four teenagers in Turkey since January 1, including the boy's sister, all of whom were in close contact with sick birds that their impoverished families bred in backyards.

The 16-year-old Fatma Ozcan died Sunday, about two weeks after she and her brother slaughtered a sick duck for food.

The other three victims -- a brother and two sisters -- perished earlier this month, becoming the first human fatalities of the virus outside its origins in Asia.

Sahin said late diagnosis and treatment were likely a "primary factor in fatality cases."

The four dead adolescents were brought to the hospital days after they began showing the symptoms of the disease, doctors said.

The US embassy in Ankara said the US team, including experts in animal and health surveillance, laboratory capacity and public health communications, would hold talks with Turkish officials in Ankara before heading out to regions stricken with the virus.

Neighbouring Bulgaria offered to help with Turkey to combat the outbreak by offering a meeting between agriculture ministers from the two countries to discuss joint measures.

"This meeting could take place at the border and they (the two ministers) could talk about the necessary measures," Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told a press conference here.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there was nothing to fear, adding that the government was stepping up efforts to increase the people's awareness.

"Turkey's struggle against the disease has been successful so far and the current situation is not of a dimension that should cause citizens to worry," he said.

The government has told villagers to halt backyard breeding, blamed for most of the human H5N1 infections in Turkey, a vast country which lies on the routes of migratory birds who are believed to be spreading the virus.

Officials said 932,000 birds had been slaughtered as of Monday afternoon, since the outbreak started late December in an area near Dogubeyazit and then steadily spread west.

Scientists fear that the more the virus spreads, the greater the chance H5N1 will mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, possibly sparking a global pandemic that could claim tens of millions of lives.

Since reappearing in Southeast Asia in 2003, the virus has killed about 80 people and infected some 150 in six countries, according to a World Health Organization toll. Most of the dead were in Vietnam.

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