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Six more human bird flu cases, three fatal JAKARTA - According to the World Health Organization, six more humans have become infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus strain in Indonesia, of which three have died. 21% of all confirmed human cases of bird flu infection so far have happened in Indonesia - 48 out of 224.

Indonesian authorities can confirm that four of these six cases had been exposed to sick chickens and pigeon droppings. Reports on the sources for other two are still pending. Authorities added that it is highly unlikely any of these six infected humans caught bird flu from another human - all but two of them are from different parts of the country. Two of them, a brother and sister, both got ill at the same time - an indication that one did not infect the other. The brother and sister have died.

There is absolutely no connection between these six human infections and the cluster of seven family members from Kubu Sembelang. There may have been human-to-human transmission among this cluster of seven family members as they shared a small room. H5N1 can transmit from human-to-human if there is continuous, close physical contact. Laboratory tests indicate there is no evidence that H5N1 has mutated.

After being criticised for their lack of urgency, Indonesian authorities have announced a series of measures aimed at combating the spread of animal and human infection. People who refuse to undergo tests will now face a prison sentence, as will those who refuse to allow their animals to be tested.

Scientists fear that when the H5N1 bird flu virus strain mutates, it will acquire the ability to become human transmissible. The most likely way it may do this is to infect a person who already has the normal human flu. The H5N1 would have the opportunity to exchange genetic information with the human flu virus and pick up its ability to jump from human-to-human. If this happens we could be facing a flu pandemic. How serious a flu pandemic may be for global human health will depend on how virulent the mutated virus is.

H5N1 needs to get embedded deep down into the human lung to make a person sick. This is one of the reasons humans do not catch bird flu easily, even from birds. A sick person cannot easily infect another human because his/her coughs and sneezes expel tiny quantities of the virus - as it is so deep down in the lung. A mutated virus that acquires the ability to become human transmissible most likely will start to infect the upper respiratory tract. If it did this humans would catch it and become ill much more easily, and sick people would expel a larger quantity of virus after each cough and sneeze. Fortunately, upper-respiratory tract infections are easier to treat than lower-respiratory tract infections. If this theory happens, it could mean that a human flu pandemic would occur with a less virulent virus than the present H5N1.

In other words: Currently, H5N1 only infects humans deep down in the lung. That is why it has a high death rate. That is also why humans cannot catch it easily. That is also why humans cannot pass it on easily.


Link to related event Related event:
Bird flu in Indonesia

Related blog entries (category 'Bird Flu') Related blog entries (category 'Bird Flu'):
29 May 2006 · WHO confirms two more bird flu cases
28 May 2006 · Three bird flu deaths confirmed
25 May 2006 · Malaysia to ban entry of poultry from Indonesia
24 May 2006 · WHO: Human-to-human bird flu transmission possible
23 May 2006 · H5N1 kills 2 more in Indonesia


Posted in Bird Flu @ 31 May 2006 07:13 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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