May 23, 2006

Human-to-Human Bird Flu in Indonesia?

Left: Avia flu H5N1

(North Sumatra, Indonesia) All seven confirmed cases of avian flu - six of whom have died - appear to be part of a cluster of human-to-human transmission of the virus, according to World Health Orgnization (WHO) officials.

WHO continues to search for a "possible alternative source" for the infection. Given the fact that at leat three of the victims spent the night of April 29 in a room with the index case, a 10-yeqr old boy, and the other victims lived nearby, the likelihood is strong that the H5N1 virus is developing more efficient means of spreading to humans.

218 cass of bird flu have been recorded by WHO since 2003, most of which can be traced to direct contact with infected or dead birds. A WHO official admitted that the agency may raise the pandemic alert level.

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



Anonymous said...

scary scary scary - better go by tuna!

Anonymous said...

whoops- buy

Kate said...

I've been watching this. Just in case :-)

The migratory flight path of the birds into North America this year did not bring the avian flu to the states. So I was happy to hear that. But human to human is a whole different ballgame.

I don't know how well traveled Indonesians are - but it could be the start. If you look at the CDC site and WHO's site they both have alot of info on this. The CDC and national health org's have formulated a path of transmission - it should be there also. You can see how they project it to travel through the US.

historymike said...

This is a dark turn of events if indeed we have a cluster of human-to-human tansmission, Kate.

Viruses and bacteria are very adaptible organisms, and trade plsmids, transposons, and virions rather freely. Once a virus "learns" how to jump from human-to-human, the replication and "sharing" process will make it difficult to stop H5N1 from spreading globally.

Brian said...

I'm old enough to remember the Swine Flu scare of the 1970s.

I remain skeptical of the possibility of a pandemic

Hooda Thunkit said...

Now might be a good time to break out that Avian Flu Vaccine.

Oh. . .


But, why doesn't the government do something?

How hard could it be to make a vaccine for a mutating strain of virii?

Kate said...

I hear you Mike. Well aware here. I think you have a decent readership, maybe get the CDC emergency planning .pdf and post it here. Just in case. Won't hurt to be educated, right?

That's true Brian - about the 76 Swine flu - however it was the first national mobilization of immunizations. And it worked.

This is also the influenza strain that was responsible for 20 MILLION deaths in the outbreak of 1918. Thank God that the mobilization did happen in 1976.

This is the same strain associated with the avian flu.

If the existing flu in the birds makes the successful mutation to bird to human (which has happened) and then mutates one more time to human to human (we are concerned we are now seeing this) then we have a real problem.

Because unlike in 1976 - we don't have an effective vaccine.

And unlike the 1918 outbreak of this flu - we now have air travel all over the world.

Kate said...

hooda - they had one that worked early on but the damn things mutating.

So what works on one strain doesn't work after the thing changes.

The government is working on it - some problems don't have solutions though - the issue is to get the virus that transmits human to human and create a vaccine. THEN the huge task of production for billions and distribution. It's not something the government can turn around on a dime.

Everyone in the entire world is waiting to get the human to human virus to begin working on the vaccine.

Anonymous said...

H5N1 is very lethal... in the largest cluster in Indonesia (in the news this last week) the kill rate was 87% and transmission was H2H2H.

Current technology relys on eggs to grow the vaccine with a batch taking 9 months to create... which means there will be no vaccine available at all when this starts. Not to mention that the entire worldwide production for a year is something less than 200 million doses.

There are a couple of small bio tech companies who are developing novel cell based vaccines (non-egg based) that can be quickly produced in about 2 months, but the FDA trials are only in the very earliest stages. Can our government fast track these?

You had better hope they can.