WAITING FOR THE WHO

“To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is disease.” ~ Lao Tzu.

Earlier in the week, news was released from the Turkish Health Ministry stating that blood tests on a 14-year-old boy from Igdir failed to find any trace of the H5N1 virus.

Today, the Turkish Health Ministry has reversed it’s statement:

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday two people had been diagnosed with bird flu — the first human cases outside Southeast Asia and China — and a doctor said one of them, a 14-year-old boy, had died from the killer H5N1 strain.

A top World Health Organization (WHO) official said the boy had probably died from H5N1, which would mark a dramatic shift westwards for the deadly disease to the threshold of Europe.

Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag gave no specific details on the boy’s death but said samples had been sent to the WHO and Britain for more tests.

If the boy’s death is officially confirmed as being the result of H5N1, it would be the first outside eastern Asia where more than 70 people have been killed by the disease since 2003.

The virus remains hard for people to catch, but there are fears it could mutate into a form easily transmitted among humans. Experts say a pandemic among humans could kill millions around the globe and cause massive economic losses.

“We are pretty confident that unfortunately it is a human case of H5N1,” Guenael Rodier, special adviser on communicable diseases at the WHO’s European office, told Reuters.

Although more tests would be needed before anybody could be absolutely certain of the type of virus, Rodier said all the evidence pointed to it being the H5N1 strain.

“(The boy) died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu,” Huseyin Avni Sahin, head doctor at the hospital in the town of Van in eastern Turkey, near the Iranian and Armenian borders, told a televised news conference.

Anatolia is carrying two short reports on the bird flu. The first repeats the statement of the Turkish Minister of Health, while the second is from a physician at the Yuzuncu Yil University Medical Faculty in Wan, stating that Tamiflu, the only known vaccination for H5N1 is on hand and being used on the remaining patients. One of the sisters of the dead boy is apparently in extremely serious condition.

Everyone is now awaiting confirmation tests by the World Health Organization, in this report by the AP and carried on CNN. More information on bird flu, plus a video from Turkey can be found from Reuters at this link.

In spite of the Health Ministry’s statement to the contrary, Zaman is still reporting that the strain of the virus is unidentified. Zaman also reports that the residents of Doguayazit are anxious about the situation in the wake of the death of Mehmet Ali Kocyigit and the condition of his siblings.

TDN is reporting a scare in Erzurum after the sudden deaths of some chickens. Veterinary teams are walking the streets under police escort, looking for chickens to collect as a result of a public order. However, this article also denies the statement from the Health Minister which, at this point, confirms that the H5N1 virus is responsible for the death in Wan.

The Turkish government and media are going to have to engage in transparency with regard to this situation. Both have limited credibility, as far as I’m concerned, and statements of the government that attempt to imply that this outbreak of H5N1 virus among humans in “The East” is the fault of Armenia, as was reported earlier, or of any other country, is not acceptable.

Such attempts are smokescreens designed to obscure what the government is actually doing to combat the disease. Given Turkey’s track record in “The East,” it will be interesting to see if it is as aggressive in handling this outbreak as it was during the earlier outbreak in “The West.”

By the way, Juanita at Neshumah has posted an entry on Kurds. She also says she might do something on Jewish Kurds, so it’s worth a watch. Bijît Juanita!

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