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Bird flu vaccine approved in US

17th April 2007

The United States drug regulator has approved the first ever vaccine for humans against avian influenza.

h5n1a

The vaccine against the H5N1 virus could be used in the event that the current virus mutated into a form with the ability to spread between humans, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement.

"Should such an influenza pandemic emerge, the vaccine may provide early limited protection in the months before a vaccine tailored to the pandemic strain of the virus could be developed and produced," the FDA said.

Nearly 300 people worldwide have caught bird flu, almost certainly from contact with sick poultry, since 2003 and more than half of them have died.

The H5N1 virus has ripped through poultry flocks in Asia and Africa, with millions of birds culled.

While the virus is a version of the influenza A virus, it is different from seasonal influenza, where infection ranges from mild to serious symptoms in most people.

In humans H5N1 is far more severe and happens quickly, with pneumonia and multiple organ failure commonly seen.

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