Indonesian human-to-human bird flu infection may be false alarm

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Saturday, June 3, 2006

Human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 Avian Flu (Bird Flu) virus was earlier suspected in an Indonesian nurse currently hospitalised who was showing symptoms of the virus. However it is now being reported that tests on the woman for avian virus have been returned showing negative results, and that the samples are being sent to a World Health Organization approved laboratory in Hong Kong for further analysis and confirmation.

"Thank God, the result came back negative," said senior official for the Indonesian Health Ministry, Hariadi Wibisono.

The nurse had been in close contact with two children, brother and sister, who have died. The sister, nine, was confirmed of having died from the virus by local lab tests. The brother was buried before any blood tests could be taken, but showed similar symptoms.

It was reported on Friday that an analysis has shown that the virus has not mutated, and the WHO has said that there was no evidence so far of human-to-human transmission.

Other members of the same family are currently ill, but all members have received the Tamiflu antiviral drug.

"I think it is a cluster. The local test from the victim in Pamulang is bird flu positive. The symptoms of the virus are very similar to previous clusters we've had. The parents are also suffering from flu, and we are giving them a full dose of Tamiflu now," said Indonesia's Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari.

"The characteristics of germ (the boy had) is very similar (to his sister's), and now their mother and father are suffering from flu. They are all in the Pamulang district," added Supari.

The nurse, whose initials are "C.I.," 25, has been put in isolation at Bandung's Hasan Sadikin Hospital, but officials say that her condition is stable and that her case may be the result of human-to-human transmission due to the fact that she has not had any contact with poultry.

"We could not confirm whether she is positive of having been infected by avian influenza virus or not, although she had earlier have contacts with siblings, 18-year old Ad and 10-year old Ai, who died of bird flu virus recently," said Hadi Yusuf, chief of the Bird Flu team at Sadikin Hospital.

"When she arrived at this hospital last night, her body temperature was very high, namely 39.6 Celsius degrees but now it has decreased to 37 Celsius degrees. After considering her contact with dead bird flu victims, we declared her a suspected bird flu case. But she is still fully conscious, her breathing problems are not too serious and she's not experiencing chest pain," added Yusuf.

The names of the children and the nurse have not been released. The nurse is undergoing treatment and has been administered Tamiflu. She is expected to be released when the required amount of doses is given, which officials say could be as early as next week.