Web Zap*Germs Archive

April 06, 2006

If Bird-Flu Pandemic Comes, An Imperfect Vaccine May Suffice

Day 90 of a hypothetical bird-flu pandemic
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Washington used supercomputers to model the rapid spread throughout the United States of a hypothetical, mutated form of bird flu that could be easily transmitted between humans. They also studied how to slow the spread of a pandemic flu.

They determined that though it would take time to develop and produce a vaccine perfectly matched to a pandemic strain of H5N1 avian flu, even a vaccine poorly matched to the form that might break out would likely provide some protection. Vaccinating millions quickly with an imperfect vaccine could help slow the spread of the disease, concluded the research team headed by Timothy C. Germann of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The computer modeling showed that with no intervention (such as a rapid vaccination campaign), a pandemic flu with low contagiousness could peak after 117 days, and infect about 33 percent of the U.S. population ("only" about 100 million).

A highly contagious virus, however, could peak after 64 days and infect about 54 percent of U.S. residents. That's about 150 million! We'd better pray that such a hypothetical virus never becomes reality. (The horrific reality might be something like the fictional blog published in 2005.)

While the results are specific to the United States, the researchers said the general findings can apply to other developed countries, and could aid the drafting of preparedness plans both here and abroad.

More Detail; LANL News Release
Pandemic Flu Model Images & QuickTime Video


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