Pakistan: WHO experts check for human-to-human H5N1 transmission
health experts are investigating Pakistan's first outbreak of bird flu
in people, to conclude if the virus was transmitted through human-to-human
World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl reported suspicions that four brothers â€” two of whom died
â€” and two cousins were infected by the H5N1 virus, in the small city
of Abbotabad, north of Islamabad. Hatl also reported that a man and
his niece from the same area, who slaughtered chickens, were suspected of having the
Details of the cases remain
unclear. Pakistan's Health Ministry said that six people had initially tested
positive for the virus last month, while the WHO said eight infections were
According to Hartle, the difference in numbers was possibly
due to a technicality - as the six patients tested positive with an
internationally recommended method while a less reliable test was used on the
Hartl stated that four WHO
experts have been sent to Pakistan to help determine the cause, and that all
four brothers were believed to have worked on a farm where H5N1 outbreaks had
been reported in poultry in the area. One brother, Mohammed Tariq, said only one
sibling worked on the farm.
WHO has not ruled out limited
human-to-human transmission. "It's possible," said Hartl.
WHO said that the H5N1 virus has
killed at least 208 people worldwide, mostly in Southeast Asia and China, since
it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. So far, most human cases
have been linked to contact with sick birds.
"I was not
aware that this was such a dangerous disease," said Mohammed Ishtiaq, a
veterinary doctor who works for a government-funded livestock programme.
People who came into contact with
those infected in Pakistan are being monitored, WHO said.
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