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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Researchers Under Observation in Turkey

Recombinomics Commentary

October 10, 2005

Following the deaths of 1,800 turkeys due to bird flu on a farm in Turkey's Manyas region, the extermination of 2,600 more turkeys shown to be carrying the bird flu has begun. With farms in the near region under strict quaranty, the 9 million or so poultry animals on the numerous area farns are also thought to be at risk. Currently 7 people in the area, including 2 farm owners and 5 research team members, are under observation and precautionary treatment.

The above comments indicating that five research team members are under observation and being treated may be cause for concern.  It is not clear if this is standard operating procedures for researchers, or if the five under observation have symptoms or had an unusual exposure.

One report indicates one person has been hospitalized, but there are no details linking the reports other than the fact that all are in Turkey and linked to the outbreak at the turkey farm(s).

H5N1 has been reported in turkeys in Europe previously and recently there was H5N2 in turkeys in Italy.  However, the timing and location of the current outbreak, as well as the large number of dead turkeys suggests the H5 outbreak is linked to migratory birds from Siberia.

The reports of suspect human cases or humans under observations are of concern.  Thus far there are now confirmed human cases linked to the H5N1 wild bird flu reported in Russia, Kazakhstan, or Mongolia, which is the likely origin of the H5N1 in Turkey.

Interestingly, in the US there have been several outbreak of H3N2 in turkeys throughout the country.  Dual infections of turkeys with H5N1 and H3N2 would be cause for concern, because the H5N1 could acquire the human receptor binding domain on H3 and create H5N1 which is more efficiently transmitted human to human.

More information on the human cases hospitalized or under observation would be useful.

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