WASHINGTON, March 23 (Xinhuanet) -- The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said Wednesday it has started human tests of a vaccine against H5N1 bird flu in efforts to prepare to respond to a possible bird flu pandemic.
The tests on the vaccine safety in the first phase will involve 450 healthy adults in Baltimore, Los Angeles and Rochester, New York. If shown safe, the vaccine is planned to be further tested in other populations such as old people and children.
|A researcher works inside a lab for a human bird flu vaccine. (AFP/file)|
The vaccine is made by Sanofi Pasteur from an inactivated H5N1 bird flu virus isolated in 2004. Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, California, also has a US government contract to make an H5N1 bird flu vaccine.
"While there have been relatively few cases worldwide of H5N1 avian influenza infection in humans, the public health community is concerned that the virus will develop the capability of efficiently spreading from human to human and thus create a risk for a worldwide pandemic," NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement.
In the bird flu breakout since the end of 2003 in Asia, "between January 2004 and March 11, 2005, there were 69 confirmed cases of and 46 deaths from H5N1 infection in humans reported to the World Health Organization," said the NIAID.
Usually, people get infected with the virus in the direct contact with birds such as chickens or ducks.
"To date, there has been a small number of cases where human-to-human transmission of the virus may have occurred. However, public health experts fear that the virus may evolve into one that is more easily transmitted between people," the NIAID said. In that case, "a worldwide pandemic could follow." Enditem