CDC begins work on a vaccination against H7N9 flu
China recently reported the presence of the new H7N9 flu in the country with 14 confirmed cases and six fatalities. The CDC announced they would develop a vaccine against the H7N9 flu as a "precaution," the New York Times reports.
China's center for disease control has already traced hundreds of people that had been exposed to the 14 infected people. No cases of human-to-human transmission have yet been confirmed, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The virus was originally only found in wild birds, but on Thursday domesticated pigeons in a Shanghai live bird market were also found to be carriers, which led to the culling of all birds in the market. Michael Shaw, an associate laboratory director in the influenza division of the CDC, expressed concern over the ability to conduct research, since pigeons are hard to control and aren't usually tested, the New York Times reports.
The seed vaccine is estimated to take about a month to develop. Shaw said a synthetic DNA replica of the virus is being used instead of a sample from china, since the genetic sequences of the virus have been posted by China on public databases.
The seed vaccine will be tested in ferrets by vaccinating them before exposing them to the H7N9 virus. Doctors will then wait to see how the ferrets respond, according to the New York Times.
"If everything works smoothly the first time, we could theoretically have it ready to send to manufacturers within four weeks," Shaw said, the New York Times reports. "But some things, like ferrets, you can't speed up."
The dangers of the H7N9 flu virus are not yet known, as only severe cases have been reported. It is speculated that more than 14 cases may have occurred, but people infected with a milder case may not have gone to the hospital. "We may be seeing only the serious cases, the ones who go to the hospitals," Shaw said, according to the New York Times.
The World Health Organization has reported that tests conducted in China suggest H7N9 is susceptible to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.