Flu Pandemic

Bird Flu Vaccine

Every year, thousands of people die, in the many influenza epidemics that occur all over the world. In case of influenza pandemics known to be quite frequent, millions of people all over the world may be killed within a span of few months. Thus, flu is highly pathogenic and may prove fatal in many cases.
Recently, the greatest threat of a pandemic has been that of bird flu. It is caused by some subtypes of the Influenza A virus, that have shown specific adaptation towards birds. This virus can infect the entire population of birds in a village and can kill them within a short span of two days. Thus, this virus can prove to be fatal as far as birds are concerned. So far, the virus has not shown much preference to human as hosts. However, many scientists fear, that it may undergo some mutation and thus, adapt itself to the human body. Even then, some cases of humans suffering from bird flu have been known and since the first case in the year 1997, close to a 800 cases have been detected so far.
Most of the cases of bird flu in humans have proved to be fatal. Even in the cases where the patients have recovered, the reason for their recovery have remained unclear. On the bright side, the number of cases of bird flu in humans, has reduced in the past two years. This might be due to increasing number of safety precautions, that have been taken all over the world.

Bird Flu Vaccine

Vaccination is one of the important ways of preventing the spread of any disease. In case of bird flu as well, many effort have been made towards developing a vaccine for both humans and birds. This however, has proved to be difficult, as the virus is currently in its emergent stage and is undergoing mutations at regular intervals. If the virus undergoes a mutation and develops into a new strain, then the vaccine that was used against the virus previously would prove to be ineffective.
Even though the vaccines are available against the virus for humans, they are not being sold publicly, as they are currently undergoing certain tests or have proven not to be successful in them. Indeed, the most successful of the vaccines has proved to be effective, only in 54 % of the cases. The quantity of vaccine being manufactured, is not sufficient, in case a pandemic breaks out. Recently, human tests for the bird flu vaccine were carried out in Belgium. The results of the same are still unknown.

Till the year 2008, the vaccines licensed for bird flu are as follows:

On the other hand, many bird flu vaccines have been developed for birds. Many countries make use of these vaccines for the protection of poultry, instead of culling their own poultry and incurring huge losses. Recently, China has started manufacturing such a vaccine.

Problems with Bird Flu Vaccines

Even if a bird flu vaccine is tested successfully, one cannot be certain that it will be useful in a bird flu pandemic. The reason for this is, that the strain causing bird flu during the pandemic, may be different from the one, for which the vaccine has been manufactured. Each of the above vaccines are manufactured using chicken eggs and require at least 9 months of fertilization. Thus, even if a vaccine is found at the beginning of a bird flu pandemic, the same would have caused considerable damage, before the bird flu vaccine is introduced to civilians.
Another problem with bird flu vaccines is, that the disease itself is fatal for chickens. Thus, if a pandemic strikes, it may be impossible to manufacture the vaccine.
Thus, even though efforts are being made to manufacture a good bird flu vaccine, some changes need to be made. Some scientists estimate, that it will take another 10 years before such a vaccine is made. Let us hope, that if the possible bird flu pandemic is not averted, we have a good vaccine to deal with it, when it strikes.