The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that it believed test results showing three people in Azerbaijan had died of bird flu were reliable, but it awaited final confirmation from a British laboratory.
Azerbaijan's Health Ministry said late on Monday that three people who died earlier this month had been infected with bird flu in the former Soviet state's first human cases.
The results came from a mobile laboratory brought into Azerbaijan from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said. The tests were positive for H5 avian flu, but the exact strain of the virus was not yet known.
[...] The United Nations health agency hoped that the samples would leave the capital Baku on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The infected people were thought to be members of a family from the Salyan region, in southern Azerbaijan near the Caspian Sea coast, who were admitted to hospital early in March with suspected bird flu. Four of them died.
Azeri officials said a further six people from the same area who were in hospital with suspected bird flu were not infected.
Relatives told local media that the infected family kept poultry in their house, a common practice in rural Azerbaijan.