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Archive for Saturday, January 7, 2006

Family loses third child, 11, to bird flu in poor Turkish town

January 7, 2006

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— The mother wailed as the white shroud bearing the body of her 11-year-old daughter was lowered into a simple grave Friday, her third child to die in less than a week from bird flu. An imam in a surgical mask and rubber gloves read prayers.

Panic over bird flu has spread across this town beneath the snow-covered mountains of eastern Turkey near the Iranian border, with scared villagers bringing their children to the hospital at the first sign of any illness.

"Everyone wonders if they've got it," said Dr. Huseyin Yurtsever, who treated the children of Marifet and Zeki Kocyigit before sending them to a larger hospital in the city of Van, with high fevers, coughing and bleeding in their throats. The doctor said the children had played with the heads of chickens that died of bird flu.

Zeki Kocyigit said that when he took his four ailing children to Van, "It was really hard for them to breathe."

Mehmet Ali, 14, died first, on Sunday. Then, his 15-year-old sister, Fatma, died Thursday. Hulya, 11, died Friday and was buried beside her siblings.

A fourth Kocyigit child, 6-year-old Ali Hasan, is hospitalized in Van, but he has improved considerably and is no longer on a respirator.

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