MoonDawg's Den: Jumping towards pandemic

MoonDawg's Den

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Jumping towards pandemic

It appears that the H5N1 virus may have made its first double jump in Indonesia last week, where a cluster outbreak of avian flu has killed seven out of eight members of an extended family in a north Sumatra village. According to the WHO, "All confirmed cases in the cluster can be directly linked to close and prolonged exposure to a patient during a phase of severe illness". Investigators have been unable to find a source for the outbreak in local poultry or other animals, which has been the method of transmission for nearly all human cases of avian influenza to date.

This means that the family members apparently contracted the disease from each other - i.e., the virus jumped from human to human. Some believe that H5N1 in Indonesia has made a triple-jump - H2H2H. But only members of this single village family have become ill, and fortunately this has not yet spread to the rest of the community - although we are still within the 7-10 day incubation period from last week's cases, so the situation still bears watching.

Smaller disease clusters with fatal cases have also appeared in West Java and Jakarta during the last coupe of weeks. If the Indonesian version of the virus is starting to mutate to a form easily passed between humans, it is very bad news indeed: the mortality rate for those infected with bird flu in Indonesia this month is at about 80%. Could Phase 4 be around the corner?


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