FLURRY of new reports of avian influenza in humans and animals has emerged from various parts of Turkey, and international health officials said they had come to believe that the disease had been simmering in the eastern part of the country for months, even though it was only reported there in late December.

Experts, including representatives of the World Health Organisation, accompanied by the Turkish Health Minister, were scrambling to determine the full extent of the outbreaks. On Sunday the group visited the worst-hit areas in and around the city of Van, in eastern Turkey.

The WHO has confirmed four children from villages near Van have been infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the first human cases outside East Asia. The four had had close contact with birds, health officials said.

Turkish officials announced on Sunday that tests had confirmed five new cases of H5N1, two more in Van and three around the capital, Ankara - two young brothers and an elderly man.

The Ankara cases have the most alarming implications because bird flu had not been previously reported in that part of the country, and it is a relatively well-off area, where humans and animals do not live under one roof. The infected boys had had contact with dead wild ducks, said a ministry spokesman, and the man with a dead chicken.

In addition to the confirmed cases, about 50 people suspected of having the disease have been taken to hospital, at least 30 in the Van area and about 20 in Ankara.
This bird flu is scary . 50 more suspected to have it .