Avian Flu: Prevention and Treatment

Numerous news reports have been published during recent months about the spread of the avian (bird) flu in Asia and Europe among chickens, ducks, and other fowl. At a recent meeting of health officials regarding potential human health problems related to the virus, much discussion centered around bird flu virus mutations, the need to develop a new vaccine against various avian flu strains, and ways to increase production of a one or more drugs that may fight the virus if it spreads from fowl to humans.

Although scientists are working to develop a vaccine that would be effective against avian flu, presently no such vaccine is available. Media stories have centered on a drug called Tamiflu and its role in a possible bird flu pandemic. The drug appears to be effective against certain bird flu strains, while other antiviral drugs have not shown much effect against this virus. Recently, federal officials approached the manufacturer of Tamiflu regarding the possibility of having other drug companies make generic versions of Tamiflu to ease a shortage that would occur if an avian flu pandemic in humans occurred.