Bird Flu Jitters Across Europe

Turkish municipality employees wear masks and protective suits as they wait at their headquarters for bird culling to begin in Istanbul's Gazi Osman Pasa district, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006. AP

Turkey raced to contain an outbreak of bird flu Tuesday, destroying 300,000 fowl and blaring warnings from mosque loudspeakers, after preliminary tests showed at least 15 people have been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain.

As the country recorded the first human deaths outside eastern Asia, jittery European governments stepped up border checks and hosed down Turkish trucks with disinfectant.

On Tuesday, an eight-year-old Turkish girl was infected with bird flu after she hugged and kissed her ailing chickens.

Fifteen cases in one week is a record for the current bird flu outbreak. Never before has such a high number of cases been seen in such a short time in Asia, where 76 people have died since 2003.

From the first major outbreak two years ago in South Korea, the flu, which is carried by migrating wild birds, has literally flown around the world – to Vietnam, Thailand, to China, Turkey, Romania, Kuwait, and Ukraine, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Philips. A related strain has now shown up in Japan.

Meanwhile, two people who had been sickened by bird flu in China have died, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, bringing the total number of people killed by the disease on the mainland to five.

So far there is no sign of bird flu anywhere in the United States and as Americans watch outbreaks of bird flu overseas, they should stay calm but vigilant, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin.

European governments, scrambling to avoid the specter of a mutation that could trigger a pandemic capable of killing millions, sprayed trucks from Turkey with disinfectant. In Italy, a consumer group urged the government to impose a ban on travel to Turkey, and in Greece, veterinary inspectors stepped up border checks.

Underscoring the vulnerability neighboring countries feel, Bulgaria began issuing its citizens special instructions on how to deal with an outbreak.

Turkey's government, anxious to demonstrate to its citizens and the European Union that it was taking decisive action, ordered more than 300,000 fowl destroyed as a precaution. Health officials said Tuesday most of the 70 or so people hospitalized with flu-like symptoms had tested negative for bird flu.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the notion that "an idea of panic was created, as though the country was invaded."

"Everything is under control," he said, adding that Turkey had no shortage of vaccine or medicines.

Erdogan spoke during a visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, whose government said Tuesday up to 77 Japanese — most of them chicken farm workers — may have become infected by H5N2, a less potent strain not previously known to infect humans.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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