By Armen Dulian
The Armenian government has asked official Ankara to provide detailed information about the outbreak of bird flu in eastern Turkey in the hope of averting a cross-border spread of the lethal virus, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian revealed on Tuesday.
“We have sent a note to the government of Turkey to give us as maximum information about the problem. We haven’t received a response yet,” Oskanian told reporters.
Turkish health authorities have confirmed at least 14 bird flu cases, most of them in a remote village located less than 60 kilometers from the Armenian. Three of its child residents died of the disease last week.
The outbreak and its potential spillover effects led the Armenian government to take urgent measures, including heightened sanitary controls at all border crossings and mandatory inspections of all individuals entering Armenian territory from Turkey. Agriculture Minister David Lokian said on Monday that the government will spend 50 million drams ($110,000) on vaccination against the virus.
Armenia and Turkey have no diplomatic relations and their border has been closed for personal or commercial travel for over a decade. Still, there is a regular bus and flight service between Yerevan and Istanbul.
In a special travel advisory issued this week, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan urged Armenians visiting Turkey, most of them so-called shuttle traders, to exercise caution and stay away from eastern regions of the country. Veterinary authorities say no bird flu cases have been registered in Armenia so far.
(GI-Photolur photo: Turkish Minister of Health Recep Akdag visits a young bird flu patient in a hospital in Van, eastern Turkey.)