Saturday, May 13, 2006

Indonesian cluster update

The Indonesian cluster we reported yesterday continues to concern. Reuters has reported that four of the eight cases have now been confirmed locally (presumably by RT-PCR) and these are being sent to a WHO reference lab in Hong Kong. There has been no mention in available news reports of the role, if any, of the US Navy NAMRU2 lab in Indonesia. NAMRU2 still operates but its relationship with the Indonesian government is now murky (see here and here).

All eight in this cluster of cases from north Sumatra island (Tanah Kano district) are members of the same family and live close to each other. Four of the eight have died. WHO personnel are said to be on the scene and have not yet ruled out human to human spread, although the main suspicion, as always, falls on a common source of infected chickens. About two thirds of Indonesia's provinces have infected poultry.

Indonesia remains the most worrisome of the countries with widespread poultry infection. It is the fourth most populous nation in the world and already has the second highest count of confirmed cases (33) after Vietnam. Its ability to cope with the situation is far worse than Vietnam's.

A situation to watch.