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In Bird Flu Vaccine Hunt, 1976 Tragedy Looms

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  • In Bird Flu Vaccine Hunt, 1976 Tragedy Looms

    In Bird Flu Vaccine Hunt, 1976 Tragedy Looms

    Scientists Are Working Toward an Effective Bird Flu Vaccine, but Want to Avoid Harm of Swine Flu Shots

    April 1, 2006 — For nearly nine years, infectious disease specialists at Rochester University Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., have been conducting tests as part of a broad national effort to develop a bird flu vaccine.

    Beginning in late 1997, the human trials have tested 30 different vaccines, all pegged to the H5N1 virus. The testing is funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at Rochester and six other centers around the country.

    Volunteers like Jamal Khal are acutely aware of the growing talk that avian flu may be the next pandemic. As he received an injection at Strong Memorial Hospital, Khal said, "I just wanted to be prepared in case it comes to this country."

    As infected birds are found closer and closer to the United States, moving from Asia through the Middle East to Europe, scientists also are feeling a sense of urgency.

    "When you are trying to be ready for a disaster, you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario," said Dr. John Treanor who heads the Rochester program.

    Vaccine Would Require Two Shots

    So far, there has been limited success. The latest vaccines have been effective when given in large doses — four to 12 times normal. And two shots would be required, straining the ability of pharmaceutical companies to produce enough to protect the U.S. population.

    Since the bird flu virus has yet to mutate so that the illness can be transmitted from person to person, instead of bird to person, Treanor and other specialists do not believe that a pandemic is inevitable. But they are preparing, nevertheless.

    "The goal would be to have a vaccine that's safe, first of all — that would be effective, at least preventing the most severe manifestations of bird flu," Treanor said, "and that could be made widely available."

    He also sees part of the scientist's job to gather enough information to guide those in Washington who would decide whether to stockpile a vaccine and when to order inoculations.

    Avoiding a Repeat of Harmful 'Swine Flu' Vaccine

    What's happening in Rochester and elsewhere is a reminder of another pandemic scare 30 years ago.

    The pandemic never occurred, but the vaccine produced to protect Americans had tragic consequences.

    this article is 3 pages long, go to link below to read full story.