Wednesday, May 24, 2006

OK This Could Be Bad, Right? [UPDATED]
Longtime readers will remember that the bird flu scares the crap out of me. This seems to me especially bad news.
All seven people infected with bird flu in a cluster of Indonesian cases can be linked to other patients, according to disease trackers investigating possible human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.

A team of international experts has been unable to find animals that might have infected the people, the World Health Organization said in a statement today. In one case, a 10-year- old boy who caught the virus from his aunt may have passed it to his father, the first time officials have seen evidence of a three-person chain of infection, an agency spokeswoman said. Six of the seven people have died.
A highly contagious human-to-human strain of H5N1 is a nightmare scenario. Sooo...everyone have a good day!

[UPDATE: Reuters reports 3 factors in this case that hopefully point this development away from the realm of global pandemic. One, there is no evidence of significant mutation in the strain found on the family (though they will only know of its contagion when it happens). Two, the family apparently had killed animals recently for a feast of some sort and this region has been notoriously uncooperative in animal testing. So, they may have all been infected through animal contact. Three, there is evidence of a genetic predisposition that could make some more likely to be infected, which again could explain why the family all was highly contagious, without necessitating that the virus easily spreads among all humans, which would be the worst possible explanation.]

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