Sunday, July 16, 2006

Russia Expects to Have Prepared Bird-Flu Vaccine by September

Russia Expects to Have Prepared Bird-Flu Vaccine by September
July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Russia expects to have ready as many as 60 million doses of a vaccine against avian influenza in September, the country's health minister said today at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg.

Tests on a vaccine are being carried out with the help of 200 volunteers in Moscow and 156 from St. Petersburg, Russia's second-biggest city, Health Minister Mikhail Zurabov said.

``All the results of the clinical investigations will be presented to the ministry by Sept. 10,'' Zurabov said at a briefing today.

Human fatalities from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza almost tripled in the first half of this year as the lethal virus spread across Asia, Europe and Africa. Governments and international health authorities are trying to stem outbreaks in birds, which create opportunities for human infection and raise the risk of the virus mutating into a pandemic form.

A severe pandemic, such as the one that killed 50 million people in 1918, may take 70 million lives and cause global economic losses of as much as $2 trillion, the World Bank said last month.

Pharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi-Aventis SA, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, MedImmune Inc. and Vical Inc., are racing to produce treatments for use in a pandemic.

Since late 2003, H5N1 is known to have infected at least 229 people, mainly in Asia, killing 131 of them, the Geneva-based WHO said on July 4.

The United Nations health agency said last month that more human cases could be anticipated later this year or early next year, based on epidemiological patterns observed during the past few years.

Russian Spending

Russia plans to intensify its fight against infectious diseases by allocating $40 million to improve research facilities inside Russia and in central Asia, Zurabov said. The country also is spending $18 million to fight poliomyelitis, a viral disease that mostly infects children and can lead to paralysis.

Since January, at least 55 people have died from the virus in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey, according to the WHO. That compares with 19 fatalities in Vietnam and Cambodia in the first six months of 2005.

Almost all human H5N1 cases have been linked to close contact with sick or dead birds, such as children playing with them or adults butchering them or taking off feathers, according to the WHO. Thorough cooking of meat and eggs kills the virus.

More than 209 million poultry have died or been culled worldwide since 2004 because of H5N1 outbreaks, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on June 19.



To contact the reporter on this story:
Garfield Reynolds in St. Petersburg, Russia, at
7713 or greynolds1@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: July 16, 2006 13:01 EDT

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