Henry Niman, worrying

Thus, of the 13 confirmed and 5 excluded [recent Indonesian] cases, 13 or over 72% of these [avian flu] cases were in familial clusters.

In contrast, only about 1/3 of the cases in southeast Asia were from familial clusters through the spring of this year.  This dramatic increase in cases from clusters shows that H5N1 is being more efficiently transmitted and this efficiency can also be seen in recent cases from China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Here is the longer discussion.  Now "more efficient transmission" need not mean human-to-human transmission.  It could mean you catch avian flu more readily from the family collection of birds.  Still, in expected value terms, this is not good news.  (You can ask whether the familial clusters all get sick at the same time, or whether there are lags; the latter implies a greater likelihood of human-to-human transmission.  I have not seen a formal treatment of this issue, although Henry has made various worrying remarks on this score.)

Niman is pessimistic, and often makes controversial claims, but his credentials are strong.  Here is an expert assessment of Niman.  Here are Henry’s periodic updates.

Here is Indonesia, closing a U.S.-run bird flu lab, just after the U.S. promised $10 million more in funding for the lab.  Good idea.

Here is a Chinese report:

Although human cases of bird flu are mounting in China, the virus here
is currently stable, not mutating toward a form readily transmissible
among humans, a top Chinese government scientist said.

Not as reassuring as they wanted it to sound.  Here is a story on the extreme trustworthiness of China.

If you missed it the first time around, here is my policy paper on what we should be doing about avian flu.