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Bird Flu Jumped From Son to Father

Family Members of Bird Flu Cases May Be at Risk

Father Gets Bird Flu from Son continued...

Two days after his son died, the father developed a fever, chills, and cough. He took a dose of Tamiflu that had been provided. The next morning, he was hospitalized. Despite treatment with flu drugs, he got worse, requiring positive-pressure ventilation.

Four days later, he received two transfusions of plasma from a woman who had received two doses of an experimental H5N1 vaccine in an early-stage clinical trial. That night, the father's fever resolved. He left the hospital 22 days after admission.

Both the father and son were infected with virtually identical H5N1 strains. Six days before his illness, the son visited a market where poultry were slaughtered. Even though he did not visit the poultry booths, the market appears to be his only possible contact with infected poultry -- although nobody else appears to have been infected and there was no known H5N1 outbreak among poultry in the region.

The father, too, had been to a market that slaughtered poultry as recently as eight days before his illness, but given the incubation period for bird flu -- three to six days -- Hua and colleagues feel the father's exposure to the son was a much more likely source of infection.

One hundred other people were exposed to the son, including his girlfriend and a doctor who came down with a cough and fever. But tests showed none of these people had become infected.

"H5N1 clusters require urgent investigation because of the possibility that a change in the epidemiology of H5N1 cases could indicate that H5N1 viruses have acquired the ability to spread more easily among people," Hua and colleagues warn.

The World Health Organization has officially confirmed 378 human cases of bird flu, with 238 deaths, in 14 countries.

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