Do you want to get a bird flu vaccine for China?
The H7N9 Bird Flu strain has reappeared in China each year as the weather turns cold.
In fact, the winter of 2016, 2017 saw the worst outbreak since the first appearance of H7N9 bird flu in China in 2013.
Shanghai expats, therefore, should keep up to date on bird flu in China.
The antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza have shown some effectiveness in curing H7N9 when taken within five days of the infection.
However, it has also shown that resistance to these drugs is easily developed. The Chinese medical authorities, therefore, have been working hard on developing a vaccine, which has already shown to be effective in animal tests.
US researchers also began human testing of a H7N9 vaccine in September 2013.
On October 26th, 2013, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, it was announced that 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 H7N9 vaccine.
Then, on November 14th of the same year it was reported that the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis achieved an 85 percent immune response in 400 people in early tests of its H7N9 vaccine.
Although these breakthroughs have been announced, there is still no H7N9 bird flu vaccine available for purchase.
As the H7N9 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.
During the initial outbreak of bird flu in China in 2013, a total of 140 people were confirmed to have been infected with H7N9, of which 45 died.
Up to March 2017 a total of 1,258 people have contracted H7N9 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which about 400 people have died.
These numbers still do not justify the large expense for a drug company to bring the vaccine to market.
Recent studies report that two separate genetic lineages of the H7N9 bird flu virus have been found.
A new highly contagious variant of H7N9 caused by a mutation of the virus was also reported in South China in February 2017.
This will make it more difficult to develop a bird flu vaccine effective against all outbreaks of H7N9 bird flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was already working on one H7N9 vaccine and is now working on a second variant due to these mutations.
Other reports state that US health authorities have already stockpiled some H7N9 vaccine, but now realize that this version based on an older strain of H7N9 virus might not be effective against the strain causing the bird flu outbreak in China in 2017.
Research into developing a Universal flu vaccine that could protect against all forms of flu has been going on. But such a vaccine will likely not be ready for many years.