February 02, 2004

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Mrs M and I have just come from the doctor, checking up on Ubul. All is fine and well. The little critter can't stop moving. Our doctor is from the sceptical English school. You know, "Don't worry about that rubbish" kind of thing. In order to dispel a myth, I asked him if it is any way possible to catch bird flu by eating cooked chicken. "No way at all" he replied. As the grin spread across my face in a self-satisfied, I know-better-than-everyone kind of way, he uttered the one word you never want to hear from a doctor: "However..." I stopped mid-grin. "However?" I asked. "However, if today's story is true, we're all in deep trouble."

Two sisters in Vietnam who died from bird flu may have contracted the virus from their brother, the WHO said yesterday. If confirmed, this would mark the first human-to-human transmission of the disease.
The finding came as the mainland reported five more areas with suspected cases - a sign bird flu is spreading quicker than expected.


While the source of infection for the two sisters cannot be conclusively identified, the WHO said it "considers that limited human-to-human transmission, from the brother to the sisters, is one possible explanation".

However, it also added that there was "no evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission of H5N1 occurring in Vietnam or elsewhere".

The health agency has already warned that the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain could combine with a human flu virus to create a lethal new strain that could kill millions of people across the globe through human-to-human transmission.

In the doctor's words, if this crosses the species barrier it won't matter if you bite the head of a live chicken, we're all in seriously deep doo-doo. As I've said before and the doctor concurred, Asian farming practices make disease breeding seem more like a national sport than anything else.

Nice cheery way to start the week.

posted by Simon on 02.02.04 at 11:15 AM in the


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while i agree about asian farming practices, i still find it hard to get worried about the bird flu thing. i still think it's a storm in a teacup, and i am looking foward to my southern vietnamese chicken curry at indochine for lunch today!

posted by: giles on 02.02.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

It isn't significant. There was evidence of such human-to-human transmission during the previous HK outbreak, however, such transmission, while possible remains rare.

There is, as yet, no evidence of a mutation that would allow easy h-2-h transmission.

posted by: Conrad on 02.02.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

So long as any possible tranmission between humans remains rare we're OK - I agree. I think why people are panicking is because we're long due for a flu pandemic and this has all the traits.

Normally I'm not fussed by these things, but when a doctor I respect says we could all be seriously f#cked if this thing crosses the species barrier, the ample hair on my neck stands on end.

posted by: Simon on 02.02.04 at 05:06 PM [permalink]

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