Bird Flu: WHO Confirms Human-To-Human Transmission of Mutated Bird Flu Virus

A World Health Organization probe revealed that the bird flu virus mutated within an Indonesian family. An Indonesian man who died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu almost certainly caught the disease from his 10-year-old son. He is the first laboratory-confirmed case of human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 strain.

Bird Flu virus infected eight members of the family in Sumatra last month and killed seven. It appears to have mutated in a 10-year-old boy, who is believed to have passed the bird flu to his father.

This case provides the first definitive evidence indicating that a person caught the virus from another person and then passed it on to another person, said Tim Uyeki, an epidemiologist from the US Centers for Disease Control.

The family members were not known to have had close contact with any sick birds, which has been a factor in almost all of the cases of infection worldwide. However, one family member was a vegetable merchant in a market that sold birds. It appears the diseases passed on during a family banquet when the merchant was already showing symptoms of the illness. Some of the family had slept in the same small room as the sick woman while caring for her.

Although WHO investigators say the virus mutated slightly when the son contracted the disease, they report it had not done so in any way that would make it more contagious.

What is your protection?
Two drugs (in the neuraminidase inhibitors class), oseltamivir (commercially known as Tamiflu) and zanamivir (commercially known as Relenza) can reduce the severity and duration of illness caused by seasonal influenza. The efficacy of the neuraminidase inhibitors depends, among others, on their early administration ( within 48 hours after symptom onset). For cases of human infection with H5N1, the drugs may improve prospects of survival, if administered early, but clinical data are limited. The H5N1 virus is expected to be susceptible to the neuraminidase inhibitors. Antiviral resistance to neuraminidase inhibitors has been clinically negligible so far but is likely to be detected during widespread use during a pandemic. Source: WHO

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