Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nice place for a virus

CA Nidom, the Indonesian researcher who a year ago found evidence of H5N1 infection in pigs living near infected poultry on the island of Java, is now saying (h/t crofsblog) what almost everyone else is saying, that the large cluster of cases in Sumatra is human to human transmission.

I say "almost" everyone because the Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Faila Supari, is still holding out:
"The cluster bird flu case in Tana Karo cannot yet be said a human-to-human bird flu case because proof on the mutation of virus DNA [sic] which is identical with the H5N1 strain of virus that infected the nine victims has not yet been found. And there is no proof of epidemiological human-to-human infection," the minister said. (Xinhuanet)
No change in the virus is necessary because there has probably been human to human transmission going on in Indonesia since the very first cluster of three cases appeared in Tangerang in July 2005. In fact this may also have been H2H2H, with the chain starting with one of the children (no source known) going to a sibling and then to the father. Contrary to the statement, the epidemiological evidence strongly favors human to human transmission there and in Sumatra.

The statement shows graphically what has been obvioius for a long time. The Indonesian Ministry of Health is incompetent to cope with the bird flu situation and nothing they say can be relied on. An Indonesian friend said to me yeseterday that since the fall of Suharto (no pearl of great value, to be sure), there has been no functioning government in the country. It is a free for all with the spoils going to the most corrupt.

Now they have an erupting volacano and an earthquake disaster. A great place -- if you are an influenza virus.