Bird Flu Tests in Eastern Turkey Negative

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Tests on five people–including a dead boy–have proved negative for the lethal bird flu virus–the state-run Anatolian news agency reported a Health Ministry official as saying on Monday.

The child tested for bird flu–which has killed more than 70 people in Asia–died on Sunday. He was one of several people from the same district who underwent tests in Van hospital near the Iranian border after exhibiting symptoms of influenza.

"The tests on samples from the dead child and four other people suspected (of having bird flu) came back negative," the agency quoted the ministry’s basic health services general manager Turan Buzgan as saying.

"The sickness is not a result of bird flu or any influenza virus," he said.

It was unclear what caused the death of 14-year-old Mehmet Ali Kocyigit. He was one of four children from the same family who fell ill.

If confirmed–Kocyigit would have been the first human carrier of the virus outside East Asia–where the disease has killed some 70 people since 2003.

No humans are known to have contracted the disease in Turkey or Europe–though veterinary experts across the continent have been on alert culling birds and taking other precautionary measures since October outbreaks in Turkey and Romania.

Turkey–which lies on the path of migratory birds that are believed to spread the virus–has suffered two outbreaks of the highly contagious disease among poultry in the past three months–the latest last week in Igdir–near the border with Armenia.

In the Igdir outbreak–the strain has been identified as the H5 type but authorities are conducting further tests to see whether it is the deadly H5N1 strain that is responsible for the human deaths in east Asia and forced the slaughter of millions of birds.

Turkey has sent samples from Igdir to the World Health Organization and the European Union for more tests.

All of the patients in Van were from the district of Dogubayazit–a remote–rural area where farming and animal husbandry are the main form of livelihood.

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