Possible Human-to-Human Transmission of Avian Flu in Indonesia

According to Bloomberg, seven cases of Indonesian bird flu are connected to patients:

May 23 (Bloomberg) — All seven people infected with bird flu in a cluster of Indonesian cases can be linked to other patients, according to disease trackers investigating possible human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.

A team of international experts has been unable to find animals that might have infected the people, the World Health Organization said in a statement today. In one case, a 10-year- old boy who caught the virus from his aunt may have passed it to his father, the first time officials have seen evidence of a three-person chain of infection, an agency spokeswoman said. Six of the seven people have died.

Almost all of the 218 cases of H5N1 infections confirmed by the WHO since late 2003 can be traced to direct contact with sick or dead birds. Strong evidence of human-to-human transmission may prompt the global health agency to convene a panel of experts and consider raising the pandemic alert level, said Maria Cheng, an agency spokeswoman.

“Considering the evidence and the size of the cluster, it’s a possibility,” Cheng said in a telephone interview. “It depends on what we’re dealing with in Indonesia. It’s an evolving situation.”

The 32-year-old father in the cluster of cases on the island of Sumatra was “closely involved in caring for his son, and this contact is considered a possible source of infection,” The WHO said in its statement. Three others, including the sole survivor in the group, spent a night in a “small” room with the boy’s aunt, who later died and was buried before health officials could conduct tests for the H5N1 virus.

MSNBC has more:

The WHO says there was probably an eighth case, a woman who died, but no tests were carried out.

Epidemiological evidence suggests that the woman was in fact the first case and that three family members spent at least one night in a small room with her at a time when she would have been coughing frequently, the WHO said.

H5N1 has picked up speed this year, moving into parts of Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Bird flu remains primarily an avian disease.

However, the bird flu isn’t expected to come to the US for quite a while.

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