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January 23, 2006
France investigating possible bird flu case
 

France is investigating a possible case of bird flu in a French woman who has returned from Turkey, the French health ministry said today.

"A first test has come out as negative. Other tests are under way," a ministry spokesman said.

The woman, 32, was hospitalised in Montpellier following a two-week stay in the Tarsus region, which, the ministry said, is not known to have be been affected by the disease. The woman had been travelling on her own.

Tarsus lies in Turkey's East Mediterranean part.

Turkey has reported at least four deaths from the H5N1 strain of bird flu this month, bringing the strain to the gates of Europe and the Middle East. The epicentre of Turkey's outbreak is in the east, near to Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia.

The woman, who had seen dead birds while travelling the country, showed symptoms of flu combined with breathing difficulties and was hospitalised on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed at least 80 people since late 2003. Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds, but there are fears it could mutate into a form that can pass easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic.

The French government earlier this month tightened its own protection measures against a possible outbreak of the virus. It has raised the number of departments where poultry must be kept inside to 58 -- almost two thirds of the country -- from 26.

Source : Nzherald