Intensive federal deliberations are currently underway on whether to stockpile a vaccine against the H7N9 avian flu virus which emerged this spring in China. A decision on vaccine stockpiling is expected this summer.
The Chinese suspended emergency responses in the areas affected by H7N9 May 28, but health officials from 15 countries spanning three continents remain keenly interested in measures capable of thwarting a potential pandemic.
While no new cases have been reported since May 17, three additional H7N9 fatalities have been confirmed. There have been 39 fatalities so far.
Since 2009, U.S. health officials have used an assessment tool to help weigh the risks posed by novel flu viruses. The assessment is a critical stage in determining the need for vaccine trials that would presage large-scale production efforts.
A decision on vaccine stockpiling is expected this summer. In stockpiling discussions, decision makers focus on factors including: whom to vaccinate, what vaccine platforms to include, production capacity, timing and cost. Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services indicate that steps taken so far closely resemble what took place in 2009, when the government worked to prepare for what eventually evolved into the H1N1 pandemic which claimed more than 200,000 lives worldwide.
While Americans and Chinese wrestle with H7N9, the World Health Organization (WHO), has intensified efforts aimed at learning more about the coronavirus linked to 31 fatalities and nearly 60 cases of human infection centered in the Middle East. Most of the cases and fatalities have occurred in Saudi Arabia, but the virus is slowly spreading. Cases have now been reported in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
Spread through international travel, the virus (MERS-CoV) produces a life-threatening pneumonia.
More information about H7N9, and other infections capable of generating a pandemic emergency, will be available on this site. Please check back with us periodically for updates.