The World Health Organization is conducting tests to determine whether a cluster of bird flu deaths in eastern Turkey were spread from human to human, a spokeswoman said Friday. A teenage brother and sister died earlier this week, and their 11-year-old sister also died of suspected bird flu Friday.
WHO is conducting tests on samples from the first two victims at a British laboratory, where they arrived Thursday, said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib. Results are expected "in the next few days," she said. Preliminary tests in Turkey indicated two of the siblings died of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. If confirmed by further testing, it would be the first human deaths from the strain outside eastern Asian areas where more than 70 people have died.
Authorities are closely monitoring H5N1 for fear it could mutate into a form easily passed between humans and spark a pandemic. The victims' doctor said they probably contracted the illness by playing with dead chickens, reports the AP. I.L.