KIZIKSA, Turkey – European Union officials helping investigate an outbreak of bird flu (search) in a western Turkish village said Monday that there was no indication that the virus here, which has killed some 1,800 fowl, posed a risk to humans.
Officials have been seeking to allay fears across Europe after a deadly strain of bird flu was identified in Romania and Turkey in recent days. Among the key points: while the H5N1 (search) strain of bird flu might mutate and spawn a human virus that could kill millions, in its current form it is difficult to transmit to people.
Veterinarians from Turkey's Agriculture Ministry said that nearly 10,000 birds had been culled in the village of Kiziksa following a mandatory order to deliver them for destruction and that the outbreak of bird flu had been contained. Officials also said the incubation period for the bird flu detected in Kiziksa already had passed and there was no danger that the virus detected there could spread.
Authorities are on alert across Turkey, however, and have warned that migratory birds could still spread the flu elsewhere.
The EU delegation met with Turkish officials at a crisis center in Manyas for over three hours and were expected to later visit nearby Kiziksa.
"We are very satisfied with the information that we got from the Turkish authorities. We feel that the outbreak was dealt with in a proper way," delegation member Philippe Houdart said.
"There is no indication that this is a human health problem here in Turkey," Houdart said earlier.
Erik Stougaard, the former chief veterinary officer of Denmark and the other member of the visiting EU delegation, earlier told The Associated Press that Turkey was "very well prepared" to deal with the outbreak. He said he was in Turkey in September to watch a Turkish exercise in Bandirma, near Kiziksa, on how to deal with bird flu.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Sunday that the EU will not hesitate to propose "drastic measures" to fight the spread of bird flu if current safeguards prove insufficient.
The EU has banned all poultry imports from Romania and Turkey. It also has recommended that member states increase security measures on farms and called an emergency meeting of EU veterinary experts for Thursday to assess developments.
The virus found on a farm in Kiziksa, some 80 miles from Istanbul, was the deadly H5N1 strain that has decimated flocks in Asia and killed dozens of people there since 2003. Authorities around the world fear it could mutate into a deadly form of flu that can be passed among people, leading to a pandemic which could kill millions.
Although H5N1 is highly contagious among birds, it is difficult for humans to contract. Still, it has killed about 60 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers infected directly by birds.
Experts believe the disease was brought by wild birds migrating through Turkey from the Ural Mountains in Russia to Africa. Mustafa Altuntas, the head of an association of Turkish veterinarians, said there was a risk of new outbreaks in other parts of Turkey, especially near wetlands.