The World Health Organisation has ruled out human-to-human transmission of bird flu in the case of four Indonesian nurses tending patients with the disease , easing fears that the virus might be acquiring the ability to spread more readily among humans.
'The negative test results for all four nurses provide reassuring evidence that the virus is not spreading efficiently or sustainably among humans at present,' WHO said referring to the stage that could make a potentially deadly human pandemic more likely.
Two of the nurses cared for siblings, a 10-year-old girl and her 18-year-old brother, who were hospitalised in Bandung in West Java on May 22 and died the following day. One nurse has now been shown to be infected with a seasonal influenza A (H1N1) virus, now circulating widely throughout Indonesia.
The second nurse experienced only mild, transient symptoms, but was tested urgently as a precaution. Her test results were also negative for H5N1 infection.
Two other nurses at a hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, cared for confirmed H5N1 cases among members of an extended family from the village of Kubu Simbelang in Karo District.
While one of the nurses experienced only mild symptoms, the second developed an influenza-like illness, but both test results received were negative for H5N1.
More than 200 million birds have died worldwide from either the virus or preventive culling, but there have so far been only 225 human cases, 128 of them fatal, since the current outbreak started in South East Asia in December 2003.
Indonesia is currently a locus of the disease with 49 cases, second only to Vietnam with 93 cases.