- JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Members of an Indonesian family who died of bird
flu may have infected each other and health experts are tracing anyone
who had contact with them, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
- Seven of the family have died this month
but so far there is no evidence of anyone else being infected.
- A senior WHO official said in Jakarta
this was not the first time such a family cluster had been seen. The WHO
has stressed that fresh scientific evidence had shown the virus in Indonesia
has not mutated to one that can spread easily among people.
- The WHO said it had no immediate plans
to call a meeting of experts to discuss raising its global bird flu alert.
- "Right now it does not look like
the task force will need to meet immediately, but this is subject to change
depending on what comes out of Indonesia," WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng
said, when asked to comment on press reports of an imminent meeting.
- Financial markets, however, were spooked
by fears the Indonesia cluster could be the start of a pandemic. Currencies
in Asia, where most bird flu cases have occurred, fell. U.S. commodity
prices came under pressure, while shares in poultry industry companies
fell in New York.
- Concern has been growing about the case
in north Sumatra in which seven family members from Kubu Sembilang village
died this month. The case is the largest family cluster known to date.
- WHO and Indonesian health officials are
baffled over the source of the infection but genetic sequencing has shown
the H5N1 bird flu virus has not mutated, the U.N. agency said on its Web
- Nor was there sign of the virus spread
- "To date, the investigation has
found no evidence of spread within the general community and no evidence
that efficient human-to-human transmission has occurred," the WHO
- Sick poultry have been the source of
bird flu infection for most human cases worldwide.
- Clusters are looked on with far more
suspicion than isolated infections because they raise the possibility the
virus might have mutated to transmit efficiently among humans.
- That could spark a pandemic, killing
millions of people and devastating economies.
- The WHO statement came after one of the
family members, a 32-year-old father, died on Monday after caring for his
ailing son, who had died earlier. The agency said such close contact was
considered a possible source of infection.
- CLOSING IN
- Firdosi Mehta, acting representative
of the WHO in Indonesia, urged against any over-reaction, saying this was
not the first cluster that the world has known.
- Limited transmissions between people
are caused by close and prolonged contact when the sick person is coughing
and probably infectious. Experts in Kubu Sembilang were acting to contain
any further spread.
- "We are going wide, contacting the
various contacts, putting on (anti-viral) Tamiflu whoever has had close
contact, basically putting family members who have not been affected on
Tamiflu as a precaution," Mehta told Reuters in an interview in Jakarta.
- "There is active surveillance in
the village, fever surveillance to look for any more cases that are occurring
outside this immediate family cluster," he said.
- But another WHO spokesman said the agency
- "This is the most significant development
so far in terms of public health," Peter Cordingley, spokesman for
the West Pacific region of the WHO, said in the Philippine capital on Wednesday.
- "We have never had a cluster as
large as this. We have not had in the past what we have here, which is
no explanation as to how these people became infected."
- "We can't find sick animals in this
community and that worries us," he added.
- Bird flu has killed 124 people in nine
nations since it re-emerged in Asia in 2003. It is essentially a disease
in birds and has spread to dozens of countries in wild birds and poultry.
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
- Univ of West Indies
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- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health