Human-to-human bird flu transmission confirmed

26-06-2006 | |

An Indonesian man who died after catching the H5N1 bird flu virus from his 10-year-old son represents the first confirmed case of human-to-human transmission of the disease, according to a report in the New York Times.

The man was one of the seven victims of the AI cluster case in Sumatra. The first five family members to fall ill had identical strains of H5N1, but the virus had mutated slightly in the sixth victim, the 10-year-old boy, who passed it to his father. That mutation allowed a laboratory to confirm the route of transmission.

The World Health Organisation has stressed that the slight mutation does not mean the virus can pass more easily among people.

Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the agency in Geneva, said, “Yes, it is slightly altered, but in a way that viruses commonly mutate. But that didn’t make it more transmissible or cause more severe disease.”

The WHO has been following 54 neighbours and family members who lived near the family for a month, and none has contracted the virus.

The announcement of a minimal mutation of the virus in the Indonesian bird flu cluster was made at the end of a three-day conference in Jakarta called to discuss methods to control the spread of bird flu in Indonesia.