Human to human bird flu

The World Health Organization has expressed concern that a recent cluster of deaths associated with the H5N1 virus in Indonesia may not have originated with an animal host, suggesting the possibility of human to human transmission of the virus. However, it also cautions that the analytical evidence suggests that the virus has not mutated into a human transmissable form, which means we are not just yet on the verge of a global bird flu pandemic after all.

The news media inevitably picked up on this warning and ran with it, but thankfully the BBC saw the double-edged nature of the WHO announcement points out with some degree of rational response that many people in Indonesia, as in other southeast Asian countries, live in such close proximity to their animals and not necessarily in the most hygienic of circumstances that the likelihood of catching bird flu is much higher in such an environment.

It is the lack of a mutated form of H5N1 among these victims that means we are not yet doomed to see the feathers fly globally.