Thursday, July 26, 2007

Indonesian government witholds important info for political ends.

We recently passed on a news item about a possible H2H (person to person) flu’ death in Indonesia.

According to Reuters, a report from Government officials there says:

"She had indirect contact with dead chickens near her school," Joko Suyono, an official at the ministry's bird flu centre, said by telephone. The victim, from the city of Cilegon in Banten province, had initially been identified as a six-year-old boy, but Suyono said this was due to a mix up between the hospital where she was treated and a laboratory. The official said that tests on dead chickens found near the girl's school showed they were infected with bird flu.

"We cannot know whether she touched sick chickens or not because she died. But we know surrounding her school the virus is endemic (in fowl)," he added. Suyono said tests for the virus on people who may have had contact with the girl had proved negative and also said the findings in this case ruled out the possibility of the virus being transmitted between humans. "So far, there have been no human-to-human cases in Indonesia," he said.

Now we have different reports, and speculation is rife that the Indonesian government is withholding important information for its own political ends.

Indonesia has been playing “hardball” with WHO over providing them with virus samples from cases that have occurred there – their fear being that they will provide the critical data required for producing a vaccine but will not be able to enough of it for their own populations when a pandemic hits. I’d say their fears about being short are probably pretty well founded, but it calls into question what information is believable when issued by government spokespeople.

What we do know, to date is that the virus has mutated several times since first isolated in 1997, that the strain in Egypt appears to be somewhat resistant to Tamiflu (and primary anti viral stockpiled by Western Countries, including Canada), and that the virus appears to be endemic in all poultry in Indonesia and possibly a number of other Asian countries. This means that there will continue to be a transmission from birds to people in the Far East with the high possibility of a mutation occurring making it transmissible from human to human.

WHO is very cautious about releasing data unless confirmed through their own laboratory, and thus has not moved their pandemic stage from 3 (animal to human) to stage 4 (human to human in small, contained areas). However, there are some researchers in the area who believe that WHO should, in fact, move their stage from 3 to 4 based on small clusters that do not appear to have been infected from direct animal contact.

We will keep you up to date as additional information is acquired.


Reuters (2007). Indonesia still probing source of bird flu death (Electronic version). Retrieved July 12, 2007

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