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Doctors find infection in brain of bird flu cluster survivor

Jones Ginting, the 25-year-old man suffered from headaches and fatigue a month after receiving care for bird flu, said Luhur Soeroso, head of Adam Malik hospital in the North Sumatra city of Medan, where he's staying. “We found abscesses in several parts of his brain,” Soeroso said in Jakarta on July 13. Treatment for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza may have weakened Ginting's immune system, although there's no direct link to show the H5N1 virus caused the illness, Soeroso said. Ginting and his relatives who died of the disease in May attracted international attention because they represent the largest reported instance in which H5N1 may have been spread among people and the first evidence of a three-person chain of infection. Human cases provide an opportunity for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people. Ginting, a farmer from the village of Kubu Sembelang in Sumatra, is one of the few human cases of avian influenza in which disease of the central nervous system has been observed. The H5N1 virus has infected at least 229 people in 10 countries, killing 131 since late 2003, the World Health Organization said on its Web site July 4. “He has been given so many drugs and antibiotics and this may affect his immune system,” Soeroso said. In most cases, severe respiratory disease is the main symptom. Ginting has responded to treatments and the abscesses in the brain have gradually reduced, Soeroso said. Diseases involving the central nervous system, including encephalitis, transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, have been associated with influenza in humans, according to Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 13th edition. The cause of the disease isn't established, the medical book said. Ginting's 37-year-old sister is suspected of being the first family member to die from the disease. She was buried before samples were taken. The woman's two sons, a sister, another brother, a nephew and a niece died from the virus between May 4 and May 22. To make the “restless” man, who tried to escape from the hospital, “comfortable,” the hospital gave him a 14-inch television in his room, Nur Rasyid Lubis, deputy director of the Adam Malik Hospital, said. (Bloomberg)