Turkey Local officials accused Turkey's government Thursday of moving too slowly to slaughter fowl when bird flu was still confined to birds, as the number of people infected with the deadly H5N1 strain climbed to 18.
Mukkades Kubilay, the mayor of Dogubayazit - where three siblings died a week ago - complained that Ankara had sent in only three doctors and that there were not enough workers to destroy poultry.
"It's an extraordinary situation," she told The Associated Press. "There aren't enough workers. We don't have enough technical people ... We're trying to do it on our own."
National health and agriculture authorities denied they did too little, too late, to contain the outbreak, which was discovered in poultry in December.
"Whoever says that we've responded too slowly has ill intentions," Health Ministry spokeswoman Mine Tuncel said.
Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker insisted there was no delay in responding to the first reports of infected birds on Dec. 15 and culling of poultry began immediately. "The fight against this disease had been pursued through a clear and transparent policy," he said.