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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 January 2006, 02:03 GMT
Panic hits Turkey bird flu town
Map of Turkey showing Van province
Residents of the eastern Turkish town hit by a fatal outbreak of bird flu in humans have besieged a local hospital seeking treatment for symptoms.

Three children from Dogubeyazit have died this week, at least two of them from the virulent H5N1 strain.

Despite no evidence that the disease has begun to spread between humans, locals have sought treatment at a poorly-equipped hospital in the town.

Turkey will speed up a poultry cull this weekend to contain the virus.

The World Health Organisation has attempted to play down fears of the disease, as Turkish officials sought to defend themselves from accusations they were slow to act.

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A WHO spokeswoman in Geneva said the bird flu outbreak had been contained in one Turkish province and there was "no need for excessive panic".

Twenty people remain in hospital in Van, a larger city in eastern Turkey, under treatment for suspected bird flu.

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Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, 14, and his two sisters Fatma, 15, and Hulya, 11, have all died this week.

A Turkish health ministry official disinfects a lorry near the Turkish-Iran border

Tests carried out in a UK laboratory confirmed that Mehmet Ali and Fatma died from the H5N1 strain, which has killed more than 70 in south-east Asia and China.

The children's family kept poultry at their home in Dogubeyazit, close to the Iranian border in Van province.

All four children developed symptoms including a high fever, coughing and bleeding in the throat.

Doctors said they had been playing with the heads of chickens who had died of bird flu.

Relief efforts

Some 3,500 birds have been culled so far in the Van region and extra supplies of Tamiflu medicine have been sent.

However, the cull of all winged animals is only half complete almost a week after the first fatality, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford, in Dogubayezit.

"We don't expect a pandemic or anything like that in Turkey but there is a real risk for people who are in close contact with fowl," said Health Minister Recep Akdag.

Experts from the WHO and the EU have been sent to Turkey to help them deal with the outbreak.

Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker says at least four new outbreaks of bird flu in poultry have been confirmed in the eastern provinces of Igdir and Erzurum and the south-eastern province of Sanliurfa.


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Local Kurdish children playing with chickens



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