Fresh human worries on H5N1 bird flu
Alarm about a possible human H5N1 flu pandemic has resurfaced on news wires and across the media after fresh evidence that avian flu, circulating in poultry in the Far East, can be transmitted from person to person. This could be one of the first steps in the evolution of the H5N1 strain of avian flu into a deadly pandemic strain that could kill hundreds of millions of people.
The new evidence involves a 52-year-old man who caught the disease from his 24-year-old son, who himself seems to have picked up the disease at a poultry market. The son died, while his father narrowly survived. A team of doctors led by Yu Wang, of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, report in The Lancet online that the two cases of avian flu were detected in the family from Nanjing, in Jiangsu Province, in December last year.
The man of 24, developed fever, chills, headache, a sore throat and a cough. He was treated with antibiotics but his condition worsened and he was admitted to hospital, where he died five days later. Just before he died, tests showed that he was infected by H5N1 avian flu virus. His father lived six miles away. When his son fell ill he went to see him and helped to look after him in hospital for two days. The father fell ill a week later but survived after being treated with antiviral drugs and blood plasma from a woman who had been deliberately infected with inactive H5N1 in a clinical trial. He spent 22 days in hospital.