In the wake of the first human deaths from avian flu in Turkey, U.S. military officials are meeting with their counterparts from the State Department to come up with a plan.

Dozens of officials from various branches of the service and agencies in Europe are gathered at a four-day conference in Stuttgart, Germany, to “prepare EUCOM to respond in the event of a pandemic,” said Col. Pat Mackin, a public affairs officer with U.S. European Command.

The military often plans for such contingencies, Mackin said, adding that it is important to have a plan in place between the military and the State Department, no matter how unlikely such an event might be.

“It’s important to us that we’ve done the coordination that makes this a unified government effort,” Mackin said.

Those participating in the conference include State Department medical experts — and representatives from seven U.S. Embassies — as well as an Italian rear admiral and military representatives from all the services.

In addition, the U.S. consulate general is set to hold two meetings on avian flu for the American community in Frankfurt on Tuesday and in Stuttgart on Thursday. The Frankfurt meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Consulate General, Giessener Strasse 30, in the consular section waiting room. The Stuttgart meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum, James F. Byrnes Institut, Charlottenplatz 17. People should enter at the inner courtyard, entrance three.

The Associated Press has reported that two children from the same Turkish family died in the past week from a deadly version of what’s also referred to as the bird flu, and a third child in the family is believed to have died from the that strain. The children are the first humans to die from the virus outside Southeast Asia.

It’s believed that migratory birds are spreading the disease, and cases reportedly have been found in several eastern European countries as well.

So far, the disease has spread from birds only to humans who have had close contact with them. No cases of human-to-human contamination have been documented.

The three children in Turkey all lived in the eastern part of the country near the Iranian border. An Associated Press report said the family had killed and eaten its remaining chickens after some of its chickens had died. Then the children played with the heads of the birds and later became sick. Another sibling has been treated and is likely to survive.

None of the cases so far has been anywhere near the U.S. military base in Incirlik, which is in the south of the country.

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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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