The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Saturday that amid the spreading of the H5N1 avian flu, a government-funded vaccine is now available for voluntary recipients who are at high risk of exposure to the influenza virus.
Starting on Friday, the CDC began to provide a vaccine against the H5N1 avian influenza and the service will continue until the end of August, the agency said.
The CDC recommended that people who work in the inspection and quarantine sectors, medical institutes and those who frequently visit countries with reported outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu should get vaccinated against the virus.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu was detected only in poultry at first, but has undergone genetic mutations in recent years which have resulted in human cases of the infection, the CDC said.
According to WHO statistics, 620 human cases of H5N1 infection have been reported and confirmed since 2003. Among them, 367 were fatal — a mortality rate of 59 percent.
The CDC said that smuggled birds carrying the virus were found at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport last year.
Those who work in virus-screening laboratories, inspection and quarantine sectors, the poultry industry, ports of entry and those who plan to travel to the endemic regions, with the exception of pregnant women, are advised by the CDC to receive the vaccine, provided they are more than 18 years of age.