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As more people get sick with the deadly strain of avian flu in Turkey, the main American military base in the country is monitoring events but saying little.

“We are focusing on education and communication,” according to an e-mail forwarded to Stars and Stripes late Tuesday afternoon by 1st Lt. Sabra Bryant, a public affairs officer at Incirlik Air Base. “As with all force protection concerns, we believe that an informed population is the antidote to many potential risks.”

All of the cases confirmed by Turkish medical authorities or the World Heath Organization, cited in numerous media reports over the past few days, have occurred several hundred miles from Incirlik, which is located in the south of the country.

Three cases were reported in Ankara on Monday. The U.S. doesn’t have a sizable military presence in the capital, but there is a Department of Defense Dependents School there.

Joe Robinson, the principal of George C. Marshall School, said he was told to refer all questions regarding avian flu to the U.S. Embassy. A telephone operator at the embassy said Tuesday that personnel were off all week to celebrate Turkish holidays and wouldn’t return until Monday.

Stars and Stripes submitted questions to the base early Monday afternoon and the base responded late Tuesday afternoon. Several of the answers were unclear or didn’t address the questions, but Bryant said no clarification would be available Tuesday evening, stating that only the written answers had been approved.

Among those written answers was a statement that the base’s Sultan’s Inn “continues to serve the full menu of dining hall offerings, to include chicken, to the standards set by the Air Force and used worldwide.”

Likewise, the base’s commissary also is selling its regular poultry products.

Gerri Young, a public affairs officer for the Defense Commissary Agency-Europe, said the agency hasn’t made any changes to the poultry products it sells at Incirlik or anywhere else in Europe because DECA buys some of its fresh poultry products from France and some from Germany. American-labeled poultry products, luncheon meats and frozen poultry products all come from the States.

There have been no confirmed cases of humans catching the virus by eating contaminated meat. In fact, there have been no confirmed cases to this point of humans getting the disease from other humans. Those people who have come down with the disease to this point have been found to have spent a lot of time around diseased birds.

Air Force answers to questions about potential travel advisories, medical evacuation plans and visits to local poultry markets could not be clarified by press time.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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