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CDC Is Developing a Vaccine Against New Strain of Bird Flu

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 03:09 PM EDT

The H7N9 bird flu in China has caused a lot of panic. So far, reports suggest that as many as 16 people have been infected and six people have died. Though officials have told the American public not to panic, because there is no evidence of the disease in the United States, officials are being proactive anyway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already started developing a seed strain in the hopes of preventing the American public from a virus that shows the capability to become a pandemic.

According to MedPage Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started to develop a seed strain for a vaccine. However, officials from the bureau say that their work on the vaccine should not be a cause for panic; there is no evidence to suggest that Americans are threatened by the disease.

 "There's no evidence that the virus is being transmitted between people or that it's present in the United States," Thomas Friedan said to USA Today, even though doctors are on alert to monitor severe cases of pneumonia to see if it could be related.

The process for developing a vaccine is a long one. A virus needs to be identified, tested in animals and sent to pharmaceutical manufacturers to grow in the eggs of birds. With the H5N1 pandemic in 2009 and 2010, it was a three-month process between the identification of the seed vaccine and the end of the first clinical trial.

Regardless, the CDC is right to be proactive. According to USA Today, 20,000 birds from a poultry market in Shanghai were killed to stem the spread of the illness. Chinese health officials have developed a test to establish whether100 people who'd had contact with the first three victims had traces of the flu strain. None did.

That is a good sign. In the ordinary flu, 20 to 30 percent of people infected would have had traces of the virus. However, some researchers are still worried. According to Bloomberg, a controversial study found that, in order to mutate to spread from person to person, the virus needed to have a mutation in the enzyme polymerase. Even though the virus has not shown signs of human-to-human transmission, it has that mutation, making it easier to infect mammals. In addition, it is hard to track this strain of the virus in birds because, unlike with other strains, they do not show symptoms.

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