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Possible Person-to-Person Transmission of Bird Flu

Occurred between father and son in China in late 2007

WEDNESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Person-to-person transmission of bird flu may have taken place between a father and son in China in late 2007, according to a study published online April 8 in The Lancet.

Hua Wang, M.D., from Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Nanjing, China, and colleagues describe field and laboratory investigations in December 2007 of a 24-year-old son and his 52-year-old father in Jiangsu Province, China, who were infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus.

The researchers note that the son was diagnosed with the H5N1 strain just before his death, with the only plausible exposure a recent visit to a poultry market. His father had substantial unprotected exposure to his ill son and recovered only after treatment with oseltamivir and plasma from a woman who had received an H5N1 vaccine as part of a clinical trial. H5N1 viruses isolated from both patients were genetically identical, and there was no evidence of transmission to 91 close contacts.

"Whatever the underlying determinants, if we continue to experience widespread, uncontrolled outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry, the appearance of strains well adapted to human beings might be just a matter of time," state the authors of an accompanying editorial. "In the meantime, all family contacts of a patient with probable or confirmed H5N1 should be given chemoprophylaxis and placed under surveillance."

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