Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Indonesia Rejects US Study That Claimed Human To Human Spread Of Bird Flu

Indonesia has labelled "misleading" a US study that claims the H5N1 virus spread amongst members of the same North Sumatran family, killing seven, in April 2006 :

Indonesia's Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said the research findings had "misled the public".

"It's pure logic... If there had been human-to-human transmission, it would have already swept the country and killed thousands," Supari told a news conference.

"Our scientists have already determined that the 2006 outbreak on North Sumatra was not a case of human-to-human transmission."

Bird flu is endemic in bird populations in most parts of Indonesia, where millions of backyard chickens live in close proximity to people.

While it is largely an animal disease, experts fear the virus could mutate and spread from human to human, turning into pandemic that could kill millions.

Contact with sick fowl is the most common way for humans to contract the disease.

Supari said tests done in WHO laboratories in Atlanta on virus samples from Bali showed the virus had jumped from animal to humans.

"There is nothing to worry about, so far Atlanta has not issued any alarm," she said after the news conference.

The US study's claims should be questioned, examined and debated, but I'm not too sure if Supari's "pure logic" argument is altogether correct.

While contact with infected poultry would appear to be the most likely way for a human to become infected by H5N1, there have been other instances where bird to human, and then human to human spread is the most likely scenario for how others have become infected.

In the case of the North Sumatra outbreak, in April, 2006, some 80% of family members who showed symptoms of infection are believed to have died from the virus, and only one member of the family traveled outside of the fairly isolated village where the deaths occurred.

Also, Indonesian and WHO medical specialists were on the ground within days of the scale of the outbreak becoming known, and most of the villagers were put onto anti-virals, and quarantined.

The North Sumatran H5N1 deaths may well have been the result of human to human spread of the virus, but as the local population was small, isolated and fairly quickly locked down, there would appear to be little opportunity for the virus to continue to spread and infect, and kill.

Clearly, Supari would be right if the bird flu virus had mutated into a far more easily communicable and deadlier strain. But from the WHO statements I recall reading at the time, they reported no significant mutation in the virus samples they collected from the dead and samples from those who became infected but survived.

See This Story For More On The Controversial US Study That Claimed Human To Human Transmission In Indonesia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hidaryl, I thought that Indonesia has just admitted it was h-h transmission. 6/7 died. Pretty potent. For it to be such one might seriously consider the H has changed.It appears it has infected much fruther down the rspiratory tract than the current H1 infects except in huge dose or ill victim.
One wonders where these come from and tehn disappear to. So dispensable aren't they.isolated,uneducated Somatran villagers. Wonder if Indonesia has a bio program .This particular typing of the virus appears to be the real thing, h-h transmission and yet the UN has not increased the alert . This is a little bizarre.

bye, A.Sourris