BIRD flu has spread between humans on several occasions, a new study of deaths in Indonesia last year has found.Om du liksom jag är en sådan där rackare som gillar fågelinfluensan så bör du nog kika in på min lilla H5N1-blogg lite då och då: http://h5n1.regeborg.se
When seven members of a Sumatran village family died last May, the spread of H5N1 avian influenza virus from person to person was suspected but could not be confirmed.
A study of the outbreak by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington, has for the first time proved the virus spread between a "cluster" of people, researchers said.
The World Health Organisation has warned that if the bird flu virus mutated to easily spread between humans it could spark a global pandemic, killing millions. Indonesia, with 84 bird flu deaths, the highest toll in the world, has tried to play down fears of the spread.
The head of research for the Indonesian Health Ministry, Triono Soendono, refused to discuss the study's findings as it was "just one" piece of research. He claimed experts had concluded the case was not human-to-human transmission.
But the WHO assistant director for communicable diseases, David Heymann, said it was likely the Sumatran virus was spread by human-to-human contact. "We believe there has likely been transmission through intimate or close contact," Dr Heymann said.
The virus had remained "fairly stable" and there was "no evidence of anything spreading from that [family] cluster to others in the community".
The study's senior author, Ira Longini, said computer analysis established human-to-human transmission in the Sumatra cluster. "The world really may have dodged a bullet with that one, and the next time we might not be so lucky," Dr Longini said.
Dr Heymann said the WHO was aware of at least two other cases where human-to-human transmission of the avian influenza virus was suspected.
There was strong evidence in the case of a Thai mother and daughter who lived apart, he said. The daughter appeared to have contracted the virus after visiting her mother in hospital.
The Fred Hutchinson researchers also examined a second family cluster outbreak in Turkey last year, but did not have the evidence to confirm or refute human-to-human transmission.
In the Sumatran case, seven family members contracted the H5N1 strain of bird flu, one of the biggest clusters in the world. Six died and another female relative died before being tested.
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