Indonesia comes up with bird flu vaccine

The head of Indonesia's national committee on avian influenza has announced that scientists there have developed a bird flu vaccine for humans.

According to Bayu Krisnamurthi the vaccine is still at the experimental stage and is not yet ready for commercial production.

Krisnamurthi says they have developed an inter-pandemic bird flu vaccine for humans by using the Indonesia strain of the H5N1 virus.

The H5N1 virus is endemic in poultry in many Indonesian provinces and the vast archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Indonesia has the highest death toll from the virus with 63 deaths to date; six of those have occurred this year.

Indonesia Planning Minister Paskah Suzetta did suggest that a bird flu a national disaster might be declared following the latest outbreaks in order to guarantee special financial support.

Krisnamurthi however maintains Indonesia is already approaching the situation very seriously.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono has said that the number of deaths in Indonesian poultry from bird flu in 2006 were around 1.06 million, the same as in the previous year.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus has killed at least 164 people worldwide since 2003, and at least 200 million birds have died or been culled. Farmers and the poultry industry have lost billions of dollars and in many cases their livelihood.

Almost all cases have occurred by people handling infected poultry; human to human transmission is rare.

However should the virus mutate it could very well acquire the ability to pass between humans and would pose the very real threat of a pandemic.

Should that happen experts say it could still take six months before vaccines such as the one Indonesia is developing, could be adjusted to provide full protection.

Several other countries are also working to develop vaccines that could be used against a pandemic flu strain, notably Australia which has also used the Indonesian strain of the virus.

Posted in: Disease/Infection News

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