THEY ARE SAYING WHAT WE ARE SAYING

From AFP via TODAYonline.com

Panic gives way to anger at home of Turkey’s first bird flu deaths

Monday • January 9, 2006

Panic gave way to anger in the eastern town of Dogubeyazit, home of Turkey’s first bird flu deaths, as residents accused the government of letting them down because they are Kurds.

“The authorities are not interested in us because we’re Kurds,” said Mehmet Gultekin, a local Kurdish leader.

He said they were receiving help only from municipal workers sympathetic to the Kurds in the town of around 56,000 inhabitants.

Gultekin pointed to a group of farmers who had gathered in front of the local agriculture building, clutching bags of chickens.

“Look, people are bringing their chickens here themselves,” he said. They are working while the government workers sleep.”

A team of experts from the World Health Organization was expected Monday in the mainly Kurdish town where two children died last week from bird flu. A third child from the same family also died but the cause of her death is yet to be established.

While street vendors picked up their trade in Dogubeyazit on Monday and farmers led sheep and cows to be sacrificed for a Muslim festival, around 40 people started to gather calmly at dawn at the local hospital.

“We have had quite a few dead chickens at our place, and now my son and daughter have a fever and they say they have pains in the chest,” a local resident, Vayettin Bahrir, told AFP. “I brought them to be sure that it’s not bird flu,” he said, indicating 10-year-old Ali and six-year-old Ceylan, who walked with him to the hospital.

Dogubeyazit, in an isolated, mountainous region near Turkey’s border with Iran, has little industry. Most people in make a living from raising cattle, a little agriculture and trading alcohol and cigarettes with Iran.

“I come from the village of Buyretti, near the Iranian border,” said Mehmet Salih Demirhan. “We have 300 or 400 chickens and no official or vet has come to visit us. I learned about the disease on television and I started to slaughter my animals.”

Many people waiting to see doctors said that they were not being treated in the same way as their western neighbours.

“This is the east. That’s how it is,” Demirhan said.

One man in the hospital queue said the hospital had only four doctors, and they were not all there at the moment.

“In the west (where the first Turkish case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu was detected in October), the birds were killed immediately. Here, we had to wait for people to die,” he said.

Municipal teams struggling to collect the poultry said they were doing their best with limited means.

“We’re doing what we can, but there aren’t enough of us,” said Ibrahim Giglal, a local employee dressed in the increasingly familiar white overall for protection from the deadly bird flu.

He said that 12 teams of three members each had collected 16,000 chickens in the town of Dogubeyazit, and confirmed that none of the 84 surrounding villages had been investigated yet.

“Each province has called up all its staff, so we cannot get reinforcements,” he added.

Five more people have tested positive for the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in Turkey, health officials said Monday, raising to 14 the number of people confirmed as infected with the disease. — AFP

Yep. That’s “The East.” That’s the way it is.

The good news is that six-year-old Ali Hesen Kocyigit was released from the hospital today. Take a look at the Washington Post article for a photo of the boy and his parents, an update on the situation in “The East” and “The West,” and links to more information about bird flu.

In the meantime, scientists in the UK are getting ready to open source the code for bird flu, at telegraph.co.uk

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