The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that three people who had caught the deadly bird flu virus had been discharged from hospital in Turkey on Saturday as the government stepped up efforts to fight the outbreak.

And Belgium's Health Ministry said tests on a journalist who felt ill after returning from Turkey's worst hit province showed he did not have bird flu.

Turkey's government met on Saturday to discuss measures to
help the country's $3 billion poultry industry, which is at risk
of collapse after the outbreak swept large parts of the country.

The Agriculture Ministry said more than 590,000 wild birds and poultry had been culled and farmers were being compensated.

Discharged

The WHO, in Turkey to help the authorities fight the outbreak, said three H5N1 infected people - aged eight to 17 - had been discharged from hospital.

"We have a total of 18 human bird flu cases - three dead,
and three discharged," said Cristiana Salvi, spokeswoman for the WHO.

Twelve patients remain under observation.

"We still don't know if more confirmed cases will come because bird flu is still among the poultry population and humans, particularly children, are still at risk from contact with sick birds" 

Cristiana Salvi,
spokeswoman for the WHO

"We still don't know if more confirmed cases will come because bird flu is still among the poultry population and humans, particularly children, are still at risk from contact with sick birds." 

The virus still mostly affects birds but has infected about 150 people worldwide and killed at least 78. 

The human victims of the disease had all been in East and Southeast Asia until the outbreak in Turkey brought the virus to the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Three infected children died last week in eastern Turkey.

The WHO said a four-year-old girl who died on Friday in the eastern province of Van had pneumonia, not bird flu. 

European fears

Worries that the disease had reached the European Union were alleviated on Saturday when health officials told a mass of reporters from across the 25-nation bloc that the journalist had tested negative for bird flu and just had seasonal human flu. 

"It is 100% confirmed that the strain corresponds to seasonal flu"

Rene Snacken, 
head of Belgium's Scientific Institute of Public Health

The Russian freelance television journalist, who had been living in Belgium, went to hospital in Brussels on Friday after feeling ill upon returning on Thursday from an assignment in Turkey's Van province. 

"The initial results of the tests would indicate that we are not dealing with bird flu," Rudy Demotte, Belgium's health minister, said.

Rene Snacken, the head of the Scientific Institute of Public Health in Belgium, the government body that did the tests, added: "It is 100% confirmed that the strain corresponds to seasonal flu." 

Government officials said the journalist - who has not been
identified - had visited affected farms in Turkey and seen bird flu patients in hospital, but had had no direct contact with poultry.

He is being kept in isolation while tests continue.