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  Thursday, March 4, 2021
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The federal government is getting ready to test a bird flu vaccine
The federal government is getting ready to test a bird flu vaccine and stockpiling both vaccine and antiviral drugs as the threat grows that a deadly strain of avian influenza will begin spreading from Asia. Two million doses of vaccine are being stored in bulk form for possible emergency use and to test whether it maintains its potency, officials said Wednesday. United Nations officials warned that the Asian bird flu outbreak poses the "gravest possible danger" of becoming a global pandemic. Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the National Press Club this week that "it is a worrisome situation," though she also said the United States "is not immediately on the brink of an avian flu epidemic." The flu has affected poultry in eight Asian countries, with 45 human deaths among people who caught the illness, a strain of flu known as H5N1. So far, humans appear to have caught this flu from chickens and other poultry, and the virus is not known to have spread from person to person. What health authorities most fear is that the virus will mutate into a form that can pass easily from one human to another. That's when a global threat would be most likely. The deadly flu of 1918, which killed from 20 million to 50 million people worldwide, didn't appear suddenly but mutated gradually into the deadlier form, Gerberding explained. The government is storing two million doses of bird-flu vaccine and will test how it maintains its potency as U.N. officials warn that if the Asian bird flu mutates it could cause an outbreak that would pose he "gravest possible danger." Some experts think such an event could kill millions of people. Officials say the new vaccine was prepared in two different concentrations and is nearly ready to be shipped to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases for clinical trials. Earlier this week the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie Gerberding, sparked new concerns when she warned that the virus could mutate to become deadly and infectious, possibly causing a worldwide pandemic she likened to the viruses that killed millions during three influenza pandemics in the 20th century. Gerberding later clarified her remarks, saying the world is not imminently on the brink of an avian flu pandemic, reports KWTX
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