News - EU Pledges $100M in H5N1 Fight
Testing is underway to establish whether a young girl in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir succumbed to the H5N1 strain. The European Commission announced the funding ahead of next week's international donors' conference in China. "Next week we have a unique opportunity to work with our international partners ... at the forthcoming international pledging conference on avian and human influenza in Beijing," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. "The costs of tackling bird flu are indeed substantial, but I am convinced that it is better to spend now on controlling avian influenza at the source … than have to spend much more at a catastrophic event of a human pandemic," she said. She said the funding will be sued to support developing countries prevent the spread o the disease, particularly those in eastern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East to strengthen their military and health services and reform some animal husbandry practices. Turkey will receive around four million euros (A$6.5m) in anti-bird flu funding, said Ms Ferrero-Waldner. The US on Friday said it would send a team of flu experts to Turkey to assess how to help battle bird flu. ""Our goal is to learn about the actual state of the influenza so that we can support efforts to fight avian influenza and stop it from spreading," said spokesman Sean McCormack in a statement. In Ankara, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker said Turkey would also receive US$35 million (A$46.5m) under a World Bank-sponsored program to improve its infrastructural and technical capacity in fighting the disease. "The project will be launched in the coming days once the bureaucratic procedures are completed," Mr Eker told reporters. Flu makes further inroads in Turkey The H5N1 virus has killed three children from the same family and infected 15 others, most of them children, since it resurfaced in a remote eastern town late last month, after a first outbreak among poultry in the northwest was successfully contained in October. The deaths are the first human casualties of H5N1 outside Southeast Asia and China, where it has killed nearly 80 people since 2003. The death on Friday of two-year-and-a-half-old Sahibe Yetistiren in Diyarbakir, the central city of the mainly Kurdish southeast, sparked fears of a fourth fatality, but doctors have played down the possibility. "She had a serious bacterial infection in the right lung," and not a viral one, said Eralp Arikan, head of the hospital's microbiology department, adding that the girl did not have a history of contact with birds. However samples from the girl have been sent to an Ankara laboratory for analysis, along with other samples from people suspected of having contracted the disease in Diyarbakir province, where avian influenza has already been detected among birds. Six H5N1 carriers are currently in hospital in Ankara. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which sent a team to Turkey to investigate the outbreak, said Friday that the virus found in one of the dead Turkish children showed a mutation into a form more easily transmissible from birds to humans. Experts say the infections in Turkey are the result of contact with sick animals and there is no evidence to suggest human-to-human transmission, which scientists fear may spark a deadly worldwide pandemic. "We don't have any information to suggest that this virus is more pathogenic or dangerous than other viruses," WHO spokesman Maria Cheng told AFP. The virus has been identified either in humans or winged animals in nearly a third of Turkey's 81 provinces, including the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, on the threshold of Europe. Turkey's western neighbor Greece said it had set up emergency response centres countrywide to meet the bird flu threat, while France has extended a ban on raising poultry outdoors to 58 of the country's 96 administrative regions. Indonesia's 12th death Meanwhile, the WHO confirmed Indonesia's 12th bird flu fatality. Tests at a Hong Kong laboratory confirmed Indonesian findings that a woman, 29, who died this week had the H5N1 strain. Officials said she had been in contact with her neighbour's dead chickens in her east Jakarta home. Indonesia is also waiting for results on whether a 39-year-old man who died earlier this month had the virus.
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