New Bird Flu Concerns

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

May 24, 2006

The deaths of six people in northern Indonesia are causing a ripple effect around the world. That's because six family members died of bird flu and a seventh member is infected. Doctors from the World Health Organization believe it could have come from direct human-to-human contact.

"We have a team down there, they are examining what's going on and they can't find an animal source of this infection, and that worries us...In the absence of a known animal source we have to treat this as possibly human-to-human transmission of the virus,” said Peter Cordingley of the World Health Organization.

Most of the time avian flu is spread by poultry and local health officials say this isn't the first time there's been evidence of possible human to human transmission of the virus.

“What could cause the concern in humans is if you get efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission,” said Dr. Susan McLeod of the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

The WHO said there are no signs of sustained transmission and the outbreak seems to be contained within the same family thousands of miles from Charlottesville. But still, experts here believe the spread of bird flu to the United States is inevitable.

“It’s strongly expected that the United States will see Avian Flu in wild birds some time in the next year,” said Dr. McLeod.

McLeod said that why health officials in Charlottesville and across the country are taking no chances. They are monitoring the situation and are preparing for the possibility of a worldwide outbreak.

Doctors point out that human-to-human transmission does not mean the virus has mutated to a form easily spread among people. Meaning, this is not the beginning of a worldwide pandemic.

Since 2003, more than 100 people have died abroad from the bird flu and there's worldwide concern those numbers will rise drastically if more isn't done to stop this deadly virus.

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