Armenia Takes Necessary Precautions As Bird Flu Spreads through Turkey

(Combined Sources)–In Turkey–as the number of people infected with the deadly H5N1 strain climbed to 18–local officials accused Turkey’s government Thursday of moving too slowly to slaughter fowl when bird flu was still confined to birds.

Three people died last week–but only two of those cases were confirmed to have tested positive. The number of people hospitalized with symptoms climbed to about 70–officials said.

The United Nations’ health agency warned that each new positive test increased the virus’ chances for mutating into a form that could pass from human to human and spark a pandemic.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also warned that avian influenza could become endemic in Turkey unless strict measures are taken to battle and contain the deadly virus. It warned neighboring countries that they are at risk and a centrally-coordinated control campaign is urgently needed. FAO has sent a team of experts to Turkey to support the authorities in their bird flu control efforts.

In an effort to block the spread of bird flu from Turkey to Armenia–Armenia’s customs service imposed on Wednesday a temporary ban on imports of a broad variety of goods from Turkey.

The ban refers to all kinds of chicken meat–eggs–sugar–feather–sausage–canned meat–macaroni–sweets–cakes–flour–and some other goods.

Armenian authorities took other preventative measures to prevent a possible spread of the bird flu. Those measures include a mandatory disinfection of all vehicles arriving from Iran and Georgia. Also–teams of doctors deployed at the Armenian border crossings by the Health Ministry in Yerevan conduct selective examinations of individuals entering the country.

Local health authorities have not identified any instances of the deadly disease in Armenia’so far despite a surge in the number of chicken deaths reported by local villagers. "We have already examined more than a hundred carcasses of wild and domestic birds at the National Veterinary Laboratory in the last two months," said Grisha Baghian–head of the Agriculture Ministry’s State Veterinary Inspectorate. "We did not detect bird flu in the process."

The bird flu scare has already cut the consumption of poultry and eggs in Armenia–the bulk of them locally produced. According to some unofficial estimates–sales of those products have dropped by half in recent days.

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