The Japanese government has received from China some samples of the deadly new strain of the bird flu virus. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases will now begin the process of developing a new flu vaccine to counteract the H7N9 virus, especially if human-to-human transmission will fast-track the spread of the virus.
The new strain of the virus has the potential to spread through other mammals. The fact that it now infects birds without noticeable symptoms makes it difficult to pinpoint the source of the virus and passing it on from animals to human becomes easier. Dr. Masato Tashiro, director of the WHO’s influenza research center in Tokyo, said that right now, there is still no cause for undue alarm because even though the strain can cause human infection, it still hasn’t “adapted to humans completely” so there may be enough time to study it further and develop the vaccine and other necessary precautions.
The researchers say they will cultivate the virus strain and then choose the best samples in preparation for mass production of the vaccine. They have also developed a reagent which should be able to diagnose patients who are infected and the virus samples will help them determine if the reagent is effective. They will be conducting tests as well to see if Tamiflu and other anti-viral drugs will have an effect on this particular strain. Chinese health authorities confirmed on Wednesday that there have been 9 deaths attributed to the H7N9 strain in Shanghai City and Jiangus Province. 33 cases of human infection have also been reported. The virus samples sent to Japan are from three patients in Shanghai.
[ via NHK World ]