All the signals coming out of Sumatra appear to indicate that the H5N1 virus
has spread from one family member to another in the latest cluster. The ongoing
outbreak, according to reports (see H5N1Drome
for a roundup of stories) has taken the lives of 7 or 8 family members in a
remote part of Indonesia. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and CIDRAP
are reporting that at least one family member appears to have contracted the
disease from the first to die.
It is the latest case of family clusters in the last several weeks. In the first case, it could not be determined whether human to human transmission occurred although there were suspicions. This year, the H5N1 Avian Flu has also been more lethal than in the past. For 2006, the human mortality rate has jumped from one in two to 64% of reported cases.
Nearly all of the human cases of H5N1 have been attributed to close contact with infected fowl. So far in 2006 we have seen an acceleration in human cases as well the global spread of Avian Flu to three continents. Presently there are human cases reported in Iran and Indonesia, a major bird outbreak in Rumania that has set off a large quarantine, and bird to bird cases spreading across sub-Saharan Africa.
On the hopeful side, WHO said in the Indonesian cases there was no sign of mutation of the virus: "Sequencing ... found no evidence of genetic reassortment ... and no evidence of significant mutations," the United Nations health agency said in its statement. The fate of millions across the globe would hang in the balance, should the virus mutate into a form that allows it to move easily from one person to another. It was also reported today that the US has shipped a large number of doses of Tamiflu to an "unnamed" Asian country.