Is H5N1 flu transitioning
to a human-to-human illness? Recent reports of familial clusters
suggest that it may be, though there are certainly other possible explanations, such as families living in environments contaminated by virus-laden bird feces. On the other hand, it would seem that epidemiologists are growing increasingly interested in the possibility that these clusters are indicative of human-to-human transmissions. Further, the virus may be inching towards being asymptomatic, which isn't as good as it sounds: if people can carry the virus and transmit it to others without showing symptoms, it will be very difficult to impossible to tell who is a vector and highly difficult to control any emerging epidemic.
China isn't known for being open
about most things, including the spread of deadly diseases. (Many will remember China's original attempt to cover up SARS
. As the International Society for Infectious Diseases
reports, a prominent WHO
virologist has made a claim that China has now experienced at least 300 human avian flu deaths and is actively attempting to cover this information up. "We are systematically deceived," he is reported to have said. "At least 5 medical co-workers who should be reporting on the
situation in the provinces were arrested, and [other] publication-willing
researchers were threatened with punishments."