U.S. Science Team Heads to Turkey, Amid Bird Flu Outbreak

U.S. experts from several fields are heading to Turkey to help that nation cope with both animal and human outbreaks of avian influenza.

Turkey has experienced animal outbreaks in 11 provinces, with more under investigation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Turkish health officials now have identified 18 human cases, but further verification of those test results is under way. Three deaths have been attributed to the disease in the fastest moving outbreak that has occurred since this form of highly pathogenic avian influenza began striking birds in Southeast Asia more than two years ago.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced January 13 that the U.S. team will arrive in Ankara, Turkey, on January 16 and travel on to provinces where the disease has appeared.

A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Turkey the week of January 9 at the request of WHO experts already on the ground.

Since 2005, the United States as allocated more than $330 million dollars to assist other nations in combating avian influenza in birds and preventing a human pandemic.

For additional information on the disease and efforts to combat it, see Bird Flu.

The text of the McCormack statement follows:

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
January 13, 2006

Statement by Sean McCormack, Spokesman

U.S. Avian Influenza Team to Turkey

As a friend and partner of Turkey, the United States would like to offer support to Turkey as they deal with the reported cases of avian flu. To this end, the United States is sending a team of influenza experts to Turkey to assess the avian flu situation there, see what lessons have been learned, and make recommendations on what the United States can do to support efforts in Turkey to deal with and prepare for avian flu.  The team will consist of experts in animal and human health surveillance, laboratory capacity, and public health communications from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agency for International Development, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of State.

The team expects to arrive in Ankara Monday to meet with Turkish government officials and with representatives of international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, already working locally on avian influenza.  Members of the team will subsequently travel to Turkish regions affected by the flu to see first hand efforts already underway.  Our goal is to learn about the actual state of the influenza so that we can support efforts to fight avian influenza and stop it from spreading.  In this regard, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has already sent two experts to Turkey this week to work with the World Health Organization at its request.

This effort is part of the worldwide efforts of the U.S. to work against this global threat.