Iraq confirms second bird flu death

A second Iraqi Kurd has been confirmed to have died from the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain as international teams scrambled to combat the spread of the virus in the country's north.

    A bird flu scare has brought down prices of birds in Iraq

    Hamma Sur Abdullah, 40, who died of flu-like symptoms a little over a week after his niece, was confirmed by a lab in Cairo as having died of the same cause, a senior Kurdish health official said on Monday.
     
    A few days after Abdullah's death, the World Health Organisation (WHO) lab confirmed his niece Shajin Abdel Qader had died of bird flu, galvanising an international response.
      
    Earlier on Monday the WHO said there were seven more suspected cases of bird flu in Iraqi Kurdistan.
      
    "Apart from the girl who died there are seven suspected cases of bird flu and we have taken their blood samples and sent them to Cairo for further investigation," Naeema al-Gasseer, the WHO representative in Iraq, told reporters before news of the cause of Abdullah's death emerged.
      
    Further tests are underway in Britain on virus samples from Abdullah, as well as on samples from a woman who comes from the same region and remains in hospital. 

    WHO teams
      
    The two WHO teams were out in the field in Kurdistan on Monday assessing the  capacity of the region's medical and veterinary services to tackle the threat from the virus. 

    Shanjin Abdel Qader, 14, died of
    bird flu earlier this month

    A large consignment of masks, gloves and gowns was being shipped from the United States to help Iraqi doctors tackle any larger outbreak.
      
    "What Iraq needs is lots of personal protection equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns and disinfectants to curb the spread of the disease," said Jon C Bowersox, health attache at the US embassy.
      
    "The idea is to prepare Iraq to ward off any widespread threat."
      
    The WHO said it was dispatching thousands of doses of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu after reports of an acute shortage.   

    "At the moment this is an agricultural emergency," said one of the vets, Sam Yingst from the two-member team that reached Kurdistan on Monday.
      
    "But we believe that there is a possibility that it may become a human public emergency though it will require a significant change in the nature of the virus." 

    Preventive steps
      
    In the province of Diyala along the Iranian border, health ministry officials were spreading disinfectant around poultry-producing areas.  

    "We are checking people coming from Kurdistan and Iran to Diyala and spreading disinfectants on their vehicles," Hashim Ibrahim, head of Diyala's veterinary department.
      
    Turkey, which has had 21 cases of the flu strain, was previously the only country outside east Asia to report fatalities from the virus. Four people have died there.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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