An investigation into Indonesia's largest cluster of bird flu victims cannot yet rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission, a health official said yesterday.
I Nyoman Kandun, director for the health ministry's communicable disease control center, said an epidemiological investigation into a cluster of seven fatal cases in Sumatra, which health experts feared might be Indonesia's first case of human-to-human transmission of the deadly virus, was inconclusive.
"We cannot confirm that [human-to-human transmission] has occurred but we cannot rule it out," Kandun told reporters.
"The good news is there is not yet any mutation, [or] any reassortment of the virus" Kandun said.
He added that Indonesian officials were being assisted by the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control.
Test results from the WHO last week confirmed that the five family members had all contracted the H5N1 virus, bringing Indonesia's bird flu death toll to 32.
However, the WHO said yesterday that a sixth family member, a 37-year-old woman who was the first person in the cluster to die, was also believed to be infected with bird flu.
"Although her samples have never been taken, logically we assume that she had contracted bird flu because the symptoms of her illness were very similar to the symptoms of bird flu," said Sari Setiogi, the WHO spokeswoman.
Local tests yesterday confirmed that a seventh family member, a 32-year-old man, was infected with bird flu, Kandun said.
"He is the father of the 10-year-old boy," Kandun said.
The boy was one of the seven bird flu fatalities; all came from the same family in North Sumatra.
Separately, Kandun said that an 18-year-old man working with chicken feathers used for making badminton shuttle cocks in East Java, tested positive for bird flu according to local tests.
He said the man remained alive and was being treated at a hospital for bird flu patients in the provincial capital of Surabaya.