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Turkey says dead boy had bird flu

A 15-year-old girl with flu-like symptoms waits in Turkey's Van hospital for treatment.




ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- A 14-year-old boy died in Turkey from bird flu in the first known human death from the illness outside of China and Southeast Asia, Turkish health officials said Wednesday.

The boy's sister is also suffering from bird flu and a third case is suspected, the officials said.

Eight other people, most of them members of the same family, are hospitalized with flu-like symptoms in the city of Van in eastern Turkey, and the head doctor of the facility said he is in urgent need of more respirators to be able to treat all the patients.

Health Minister Recep Akdag told reporters that Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, 14, died of the H5N1 virus Sunday.

Test results confirming the virus came back late Wednesday from a facility in Istanbul, he said.

Mehmet's sister, Fatma Kocyigit, was the other person confirmed to have bird flu, Akdag said. The children were from Dogu Beyazit, an agricultural town in eastern Turkey.

Dr. Huseyin Avni Sahin, head of the hospital, said the children's family reported that some of their chickens began dying late last year, and that the family cooked the remaining chickens for dinner.

Shortly after that, he said, four children in the family began feeling ill and were brought to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Then, a parent and another child from the same family were also admitted to the hospital, Sahin said.

Another three people from a family in the same area and one person from Van were also hospitalized around that time with flu-like symptoms. The patients have all been isolated from other patients in the hospital, according to Sahin.

Of the nine remaining patients, all are in serious condition -- two of them more seriously ill than the others, according to Sahin. He said the hospital is using all of its ventilators and it needs more to treat everyone.

According to the World Health Organization, 142 cases of bird flu have been reported worldwide, with 74 of those patients dying. The WHO said it has yet to confirm the Turkey cases, but it is checking into them.

All of the previous deaths have been in China and Southeast Asia, and world health officials have feared the spread of the disease to Europe from migratory birds flocking to the region, or from transport of domestic birds.

Most of those cases have been spread through bird-to-human contact and not human-to-human. However, there are a few cases in which the virus is believed to have spread from human to human.

Health officials have said they fear the virus could eventually mutate and spread rapidly from human to human, causing a worldwide pandemic.

Along with Turkey, birds in Romania, Russia and Croatia recently tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain.

Since 2003, the strain of bird flu has ravaged flocks of birds in Asia and killed more than 70 people there -- most of them farm workers in close contact with birds.

In China, a 41-year-old woman from coastal Fujian province last month became the country's third confirmed human fatality.

The woman, a factory worker in Sanming city, fell ill on December 6 and died on December 21, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Health Ministry.

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