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August 06, 2005

NYTIMES: Flu Vaccine Called Effective in Human Testing

August 7, 2005 Avian Flu Vaccine Called Effective in Human Testing
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 - Government scientists say they have successfully tested in people a vaccine that they believe can protect against the strain of avian influenza that is spreading in birds through Asia and Russia

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Health officials have been racing to develop a vaccine because they worry that if that strain mutated and combined with a human influenza virus to create a new virus, it could spread rapidly through the world. (The vaccine cannot lead to such a situation because it is made from killed virus.)

Tens of millions of birds have died from infection with the virus and culling to prevent the spread of the virus. About 100 people have been infected, and about 50 have died from this strain of the avian influenza virus, called A(H5N1). So far there has been no sustained human-to-human transmission, but that is what health officials fear, because it could cause a pandemic. And that fear has driven the intense research to develop a vaccine.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that while the vaccine that has undergone preliminary tests could be used on an emergency basis if a pandemic developed, it would still be several months before that vaccine is tested further and, if licensed, offered to the public.

"It's good news," Dr. Fauci said. "We have a vaccine."

But he cautioned: "We don't have all the vaccine we need to meet the possible demand. The critical issue now is, 'Can we make enough vaccine, given the well-known inability of the vaccine industry to make enough vaccine.' "

Posted by dymaxion at August 6, 2005 04:18 PM

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