A new study by a US university has apparently confirmed for the first time that bird flu has been transmitted from human to human.
Researchers from the University of Washington have studied the case of a woman on the Indonesian island of Sumatra who caught the H5N1 bird flu virus from poultry in May last year. Professor Ira Longini, who led the research, says they have confirmed that not only did she pass the virus on to her 10-year-old nephew, it was then transmitted to other relatives. Seven of eight family members who caught the disease were soon dead.
"This proves there is person-to-person transmission in this case, in that setting, in Indonesia, northern Sumatra," he said. Professor Longini says this shows there is a serious threat of a bird flu pandemic. "It could happen and will happen eventually, and this simply confirms this particular H5N1 virus is capable of person-to-person transmission," he said. "We're going to see strains of influenza that are capable of causing pandemics arising, probably avian strains, and that will happen for sure, there's no doubt about it."
Professor Longini says in this case, a pandemic may have been averted because of the quick action of health authorities or, statistically at least, it could have been luck. He said because the sample group was so small, it was impossible to say how fast the disease could have spread in the workplace or the street. But he says that in the home, it was a fast mover. "It had about a one-third chance of transmitting from person to person due to close contact in that household setting," he said.
Here's the article, via MR.