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Russia proposes bird flu vaccine cooperation with Southeast Asia

RIA Novosti

27/03/2008 18:04 NUSA DUA (Indonesia), March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is ready to cooperate with Southeast Asia in producing bird flu vaccines, officials from the country's leading vaccine company said at an international bird flu summit that opened on Bali Thursday.

The 6th International Bird Flu Summit aims to gather the world's leading specialists in the field to discuss the latest progress and methods in the fight against the disease and threat of a potential global pandemic.

"We have developed two [bird flu] vaccines, one is being registered and the other is currently being tested," said Igor Krasilnikov, a senior R&D specialist at the Moscow-based Mikrogen company said.

Mikrogen has 14 subsidiaries producing bird flu vaccines across Russia and is the country's leader in the area. The company has already signed an agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) to produce vaccines in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, where bird flu is most prevalent.

Medics in Vietnam are also currently testing a bird flu vaccine. The first clinical trial was successfully carried out in early March, when a group of volunteers was injected with the vaccine.

Further clinical trials are scheduled for early April. The vaccine will be recognized as having passed human trials when it has been tested among at least 300 people.

Meanwhile, a man with bird flu-like symptoms died at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh on Wednesday. If found positive for the virus he will be Vietnam's sixth victim this year, and the 53rd since bird flu first appeared in the country in late 2003.

However, Indonesia has the world's highest human death rate from bird flu with 105 fatalities, or one third of the global death toll.

Bayu Krisnamurthi, head of the Indonesian National Avian Influenza Committee, said earlier this week that 10 out of 12 Indonesians who had contracted bird flu in the first two months of 2008 had died.

The Indonesian Agriculture Ministry said the H5N1 virus had so far been reported in 31 out of 33 provinces. The problem is aggravated by uncontrolled domestic poultry supplies among around 6,000 inhabited islands across Indonesia.

Mastur Rachman Nur, head of the control and epidemiology department at the Indonesian Agriculture Ministry, said a warning campaign and prevention measures were also problematic, requiring the translation of materials into around 400 different languages.

The country has over 1.4 billion chickens with 30 million families keeping the birds in their homes or yards.

Experts fear that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a virus that will spread from human to human, causing a global pandemic.

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