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Probable Case of Human-to-Human Bird Flu Transmission Reported
Date:4/7/2008

But health experts say the report from China is no cause for alarm

MONDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a probable case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in China.

The finding lends credence to the idea that there's a genetic component to human-to-human transmission of this potentially dangerous virus, a new study reported.

"This suggests that there's some genetic component to resistance in the person who's infected," said Philip Alcabes, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the School of Health Sciences of Hunter College in New York City.

The finding follows reports of probable human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Pakistan.

A person's ability to monitor foreign microscopic invaders such as avian virus is essentially genetic, Alcabes said. "That may account for why certain families seem to be susceptible whereas most people aren't," he added.

According to background information for the new study, published online Tuesday in The Lancet, there have been 376 reported cases of infection with avian H5N1 virus around the world as of April 2, with 238 deaths since November 2003.

The H5N1 virus has infected poultry throughout Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa and Europe, prompting the destruction of millions of birds. The concern among health officials is that the virus will mutate and acquire the ability to jump easily between humans, leading to a pandemic and millions of deaths. Unlike the seasonal flu, humans have no immunity to bird flu.

In December 2007, according to the Lancet report, a father and son in Nanjing, China were diagnosed within one week of each other as being infected with H5N1. Researchers from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing conducted field and laboratory tests of both men, as well as 91 people who had had close contact with them.

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