Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Flu vaccine trial ready: Novartis

AFP , GENEVA

A Swiss pharmaceutical giant said yesterday it had a swine flu vaccine ready for trial as governments stepped up precautions to counter the newly declared influenza pandemic.

While millions could catch the flu, governments and health experts around the world have sought to play down fears that the A(H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu, could become a major killer.

Swine flu has so far infected almost 30,000 people in 74 countries and claimed 145 lives since it was first detected in Mexico in April, WHO figures showed.

Novartis stole a march on competitors by announcing it had completed a first batch of vaccine for pre-clinical trials. A spokesman said it hoped to have a vaccine in production by September or October.

The UN health agency raised its global alert to a maximum six on Thursday, saying it had reached pandemic status because of its geographical spread.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) said the declaration of a “moderate” pandemic should not spark panic and did not mean the A(H1N1) death toll would rise sharply.

She said raising the alert “means that the world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century.”

The WHO said it would ask drugmakers to quickly prepare to produce swine flu vaccines once the production of seasonal flu vaccine ends.

Mexico has been the worst hit. Its government on Thursday increased the country’s death toll to 109 with 6,294 A(H1N1) infections. The US comes next. Its health authorities have reported 27 deaths and 13,217 cases.

Australia, the worst hit in the Asia-Pacific region, was considering raising its national flu alert and adopting powers to cancel sports events, restrict travel and even shut national borders, although officials stressed extreme measures were unlikely.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the country had prepared well but faced problems because of the number of people who travel abroad. Australia has 1,307 confirmed cases including four in intensive care.

Also See: CECC announces change to policy on A(H1N1) virus

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