Friday, January 11, 2008

China's latest human case is a result of "close contact"

"Health authorities confirmed here on Thursday that the latest human case of bird flu in the eastern province of Jiangsu, which involved a 52-year-old father, came from close contact with his infected son and not a viral mutation.

The World Health Organization has warned that the virus that causes the illness -- if given sufficient opportunity -- would mutate into a form that is highly infectious and easily transmissible from person to person. Such a change could start a global outbreak. However, this case -- although it involved the disease apparently passing from one person to another -- does not exactly fit the profile of an infectious human-to-human outbreak, and it has remained something of a puzzle.

"It has no biological features for human-to-human transmission," said Mao Qun'an, Health Ministry spokesman. An epidemiological investigation showed the father was infected through close contact with his son, he said.

The cases took place in the provincial capital, Nanjing. The son, 24, and the first to be infected, died on Dec. 2. The father was later confirmed to be infected with the H5N1 virus, which causes bird flu. At the time, the ministry said experts had found that the virus that infected the son had originated with poultry and had not mutated. But it remained unclear how the son was infected in the first place, as neither man had any known contact with dead poultry -- the primary known source of the ailment for humans. "

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