Indonesian bird flu researcher CA Nidom MS said he was convinced that human-to-human bird flu infection had been taking place in Indonesia, official news agency Antara reported on Friday.
"I am convinced human-to-human infection has been taking place because studies have found the development of H3N2 and H1N1 strains of bird flu virus which originated from H5N1 virus. Much more, fowl-to-human infection cannot yet be proven since the death of Iwan in Tangerang," he said on the sidelines of a seminar on bird flu in Surabaya, East Java, on Friday.
Nidom, a researcher of the Tropical Disease Centre (TDC) of the University of Airlangga (Unair)'s Medical School, made the remarks in response to a statement by a World Health Organization official that bird flu infection from human to human had been found in the village of Kubu Sembelang, Tanah Karo district, North Sumatra, Indonesia.
According to Nidom, who is also a lecturer at the Unair's Medical School, the WHO official's statement was logical because the avian influenza was just like a common flu so that there was no need to be panicked.
"I have disclosed this conclusion in Pontianak last April," he added.
Seven of the nine dead victims were cluster victims who suffered from the same symptoms, WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley said in Manila on Thursday.
But the WHO conclusion was denied by Health Minister Siti Fadila Supari.
"The cluster bird flu case in Tana Karo cannot yet be said a human-to-human bird flu case because proof on the mutation of virus DNA which is identical with the H5N1 strain of virus that infected the nine victims has not yet been found. And there is no proof of epidemiological human-to-human infection," the minister said.
As the disease expands all over the world, experts fear that the virus can mutate into a certain form that easily transmits from human to human, which will kill millions of people.
Some 27 out of 33 provinces in Indonesia have been contracted with bird flu, while human fatality stands at 32 and infections at 43, according to the WHO.
All over the world, the WHO has raised the confirmed human death toll from the H5N1 bird flu strain to 122, while the total number of confirmed human infections since the current outbreak began in 2003 has reached 216.