Potential Bird Flu vaccine after New Bird Flu cases appear in the Winter
As predicted by experts, the H7N9 Bird Flu strain has reappeared in China as the weather becomes colder each winter.
You can read more about the H7N9 outbreak in our bird flu in China article.
Fortunately, there have been far fewer H7N9 bird flu cases each winter since the initial outbreak in 2013, but Shanghai expats should keep alert to bird flu updates.
Some very good news regarding H7N9 Bird Flu was announced in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province on October 26th, 2013.
A new vaccine was successfully developed by a group of researchers from several institutes including the School of Medicine of Zhejiang University, Hong Kong University, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the China National Institute for Food and Drug Control, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
According to Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Center and the WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, this is the first influenza vaccine developed by Chinese scientists.
Reports posted on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine on November 13th, 2013 also describe US based Novavax having successfully created antibodies in over 80 percent of people tested with its new H7N9 vaccine.
Then, on November 14th it was reported that the Swiss
pharmaceutical company Novartis achieved an 85 percent immune response
in 400 people in early tests of its H7N9 Bird Flu vaccine.
It remains to be seen, however, how long it will take for these vaccines to come to market.
As this strain of Bird Flu
has not yet spread widely it is doubtful mass inoculation will
be required, so this could affect manufacturers’ willingness to
produce the vaccine in large quantities.
By the beginning of December 2013, a total of 140 people had been confirmed to have been infected with H7N9, of which 45 died, representing a fatality rate of about 32 per cent.
No cases had been reported at the time in other countries, but one person from Taiwan tested positive after returning from Mainland China earlier in the year, in addition to a case in Hong Kong.
Taiwan medical authorities were working on a bird flu vaccine, which they hoped to have ready by the summer of 2014 for mass production.
On December 2, 2013, the Shanghai Daily reported that the Shanghai Agricultural Commission and the Shanghai Commerce Commission ordered the temporary closure of all live poultry markets from January 31, 2014, the first day of the Chinese New Year, until April 30th.
The closure of Shanghai Live Poultry markets proved very effective during the Spring 2013 H7N9 Bird Flu outbreak and has been repeated in each Chinese New Year holiday since.
The Lancet medical journal reported that their closure in Shanghai and Hangzhou rapidly reduced the average daily number of infections by 99 percent. This ban was lifted in June 2013 and despite the many changes adopted by the Sanjiaodi Live Poultry market, the cities largest, including separating the live poultry from customers, it will be temporarily close again.
Previously the Shanghai government had
said that such markets will eventually be permanently closed, but this
new measure states that such temporary closures around Chinese New year
will be enforced for the next five years, so it is clear a permanent
banning of live poultry sales in Shanghai is not yet fully supported.
In Taiwan, after the emergence of the H7N9 Bird Flu virus, the government imposed a ban on the killing of live poultry in traditional markets as of May 17th, 2013.
Market vendors can now only sell poultry supplied from one of Taiwan’s 79 approved slaughterhouses, and no longer are allowed to kill birds themselves for sale.