It seems there is a profusion of bad information about the present Indonesian H5N1 outbreak. Over the last week, The New York Times has reported conflicting statements from the World Health Organization about whether the cluster of cases was caused by human to human transmission. Somebody needs to make up their mind about when to talk to the press, and who to let speculate about the science when they obviously have no idea what's going on. How are we supposed to have any confidence if they keep shooting from the hip before solid evidence is in hand?
As important as whether there was confirmed human to human spread is the issue of how the sequence is varying. I wrote earlier this week about reports that changes in the human sequence appeared to put it closer to a feline sequence, but Wired News is carrying a Reuters story in which the WHO states otherwise:
"Sequencing ... found no evidence of genetic reassortment ... and no evidence of significant mutations," the United Nations health agency said in its statement.
I would note now that I'm not sure what Andrew Jeremijenko means by "the closest match we have to the human virus is from a cat virus." I was unaware there was any distinction observed in the wild between viruses afflicting humans and felines. But the point is that one agency is saying the virus is changing and may be related to something killing other mammals, while another says there are no mutations and can't make up its mind whether we already have human to human transmission.
People, get your shit together, please. Don't talk to the press until you know what's going on. This thing is scary and complicated enough as it is without having to sort through conflicting information from "official sources".