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Bird Flu Spreads

The Turkish government confirms that fifteen Turks have tested positive for the H-5-N-1 avian influenza virus. These are the first confirmed cases of bird flu in humans outside of Southeast Asia and China.

Three of the victims, children in Dogubayaz in eastern Turkey, have died. Guenael Rodier, head of the World Health Organization's mission in Turkey, says, "At the moment there is no element. . . .indicating human-to-human transmission." The victims apparently contracted the virus from infected birds. A statement released by the World Health Organization says that, "Contact between people and poultry has likely increased during the present cold weather, when the custom among many rural households is to bring poultry into their homes."

The virus has killed more than seventy people since the first outbreak was reported in China in late 2003. While the current virus is hard for humans to contract, medical experts say it could mutate into a form that could be easily transmitted from person to person. Since people would have no immunity to this new flu virus, such an outbreak could lead to a worldwide epidemic, causing widespread illness and death. In 1918, a flu virus killed more than twenty million people around the world.

In response to the appearance of avian flu, President George W. Bush has called for a partnership "to detect and respond quickly to any outbreaks":

"Together we're working to control and monitor avian flu in Asia and to ensure that all nations have structures in place to recognize and report outbreaks before they spread beyond human control." "A flu pandemic would have global consequences," says Mr. Bush. "No nation can afford to ignore this threat, and every nation has responsibilities to detect and stop its spread."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.