Bird flu vaccine developed by Chinese researchers

Scientists are concerned that a deadly new epidemic could strike China in the upcoming winter months

A poster about live poultry issued by Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is displayed at the Kowloon City Market in Hong Kong.
Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chinese researchers have developed a vaccine for a deadly strain of the bird flu virus in anticipation of a potential epidemic in the coming winter months, state news agency Xinhua reported Saturday.

Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Center, said that a vaccine passed tests on ferrets and has been approved for human distribution.

The world's first human case of the deadly strain was reported by China in March and has so far killed 45 of the 130 people who were infected, representing a fatality rate of 33.1 per cent. 

The new strain is "one of the most lethal" of its kind and transmits from birds to humans more easily than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds around the world since 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far there have been no reported cases of the deadly strain in other countries.  

The vaccine was developed based on a throat swab taken from an infected patient April 3.

WHO experts see no evidence so far of sustained transmission between people.

According to Xinhua, this is the first time Chinese researchers have developed a flu vaccine.

Officials said the virus has not spread far enough to merit widespread vaccination.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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