Iraqi girl dies of suspected bird flu

Health officials in northern Iraq have sent samples to Jordan for testing for the bird flu virus H5N1 after a 14-year-old girl died in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

    Bird flu cases in neighbouring Turkey have fuelled fears in Iraq

    Tijan Abd al-Qadir died on arrival at the main hospital on Tuesday after falling ill 15 days earlier in her home town of Raniya, in Kurdistan close to the Turkish and Iranian borders, Muhammad Khashnow, the Kurdish regional health minister has said.


    "The doctors in Sulaimaniya suspected this might be a case [of bird flu]," he told Reuters. "They have sent samples to Amman and we will know the results next week."


    Raniya is close to Lake Dukan, which draws many migratory birds to the region and where Iraqi officials had been taking measures to try to prevent domestic fowl from being infected.


    "The rest of the family is in good health," Khashnow said. He said that the family was not in the poultry business.


    "The doctors in Sulaimaniya suspected this might be a case... They have sent samples to Amman and we will know the results next week"

    Mohammed Khashnow,
    Kurdish regional health minister

    An Iraqi health ministry spokesman confirmed the suspected case and a senior central government health official in Baghdad confirmed that a team had been sent to investigate.


    Abd al-Jalil Hasan, the head of a government committee set up to monitor the threat after people died in neighbouring Turkey, said:

    "We were informed about it yesterday at noon [0900 GMT]. We sent a team this morning to check it out. We're expecting to hear from them this afternoon with an initial report. 


    "They will take samples and should have an idea of whether it is the bird flu virus by this afternoon. We are not aware of any other cases in Iraq."


    Raniya lies north of Lake Dukan, about 20km (12 miles) west of the Iranian border, near the Iranian city of Piranshahr. It is about 100km south of the Turkish border.


    Hasan said measures had been taken around the lake to keep domestic poultry away from wild birds arriving along winter migration routes from the north.


    In Zakho, an Iraqi Kurdish frontier city not far from the Turkish and Syrian borders, all poultry were being slaughtered and burnt, a Kurdish regional government official said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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