First bird flu vaccine approved by FDA

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First bird flu vaccine approved by FDA

Bird flu vaccine — FDA approves first vaccine to help prevent pandemic.

What happened? The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first bird flu vaccine in the United States. The bird flu vaccine is designed to protect against the current form of the H5N1 bird flu virus, should it develop the ability to spread efficiently among humans and create a pandemic outbreak. This bird flu vaccine could be used early in such an outbreak to provide limited protection until another vaccine — designed to protect against the specific form causing the outbreak — is developed and produced.

This bird flu vaccine was approved on the basis of a study of its use in healthy adults. About half of those vaccinated with two intramuscular injections of 90-microgram doses given one month apart developed enough antibodies to reduce the risk of getting bird flu.

What does this mean to you? The H5N1 virus is most often found in birds. However, the virus is capable of mutating and has in some cases made the leap to infect humans. Although no one in the United States has reported infection with the bird flu virus, about 300 people around the world have been infected with the bird flu since 2003, and the threat of a pandemic outbreak remains a major concern of world health officials. The bird flu quickly causes severe signs and symptoms including pneumonia and respiratory problems, and about half the people infected have died.

This new vaccine won't be commercially available but will be stockpiled and distributed by U.S. government officials in the event of an outbreak. It's intended to help protect adults ages 18 to 64. Although the bird flu vaccine fully protected only about 45 percent of those vaccinated — about half the effectiveness rate of the seasonal influenza vaccine — it still may help reduce the severity of the disease and decrease the risk of hospitalization and death in those who aren't fully protected.

Last Updated: 04/19/2007
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