First Iraqi Bird Flu Death Confirmed

January 31, 2006

War-torn Iraq has a deadly new enemy to contend with—bird flu.

Iraqi and United Nations health officials confirmed yesterday that a teenage girl who died two weeks ago was a victim of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

Fifteen-year-old Shangen Abdul Qader, who died on Jan 17, was the outbreak's first Iraqi victim.

"We regretfully announce that the first case of bird flu has appeared in Iraq," Iraqi Health Minister Abdel Mutalib Mohammed told the Associated Press (AP) in the Kurdistan city of Suleimaniya (also spelled "As Sulaymaniyah") (map of Iraq).

A U.S. Navy medical research unit based in Cairo, Egypt, provided the preliminary laboratory confirmation of the lethal bird-flu strain.

"The results show the infection with the deadly H5N1," Abdel Mutalib Mohammed said. "We appeal to the World Health Organization to help us."

The girl's uncle, Hamasour Mustapha, died ten days after his niece and may have been the nation's second bird-flu victim.

Tests have not yet revealed if avian influenza caused Mustapha's death. The pair lived in the same house and exhibited the same flulike symptoms before their deaths.

Flu Found Near Turkish Border

The infected individuals lived in Raniya, Iraq, a village in that country's Kurdish north some 60 miles (97 kilometers) from the Turkish border.

In recent weeks the virus has spread westward into Turkey from its East Asian source, killing several Turkish children who contracted the disease from infected poultry.

The Turkish Ministry of Health has now identified 21 cases of the H5N1 strain, including four fatalities, in that country.

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