This article was originally written by Sarah Jenkins
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With everyone on the brink of panic regarding a bird flu pandemic, many are wondering if a vaccine has been developed and if not, why it has not. Vaccines have become a common and widely accepted way of dealing with various viral infections. Unfortunately, this is not yet a valid option for bird flu.
The primary reason an effective vaccine has not been developed for the strain of bird flu causing so much concern is simply lack of time. The process of vaccine development is long and arduous. The virus must be researched on a molecular level in order to create an effective vaccine. Although bird flu was first identified in 1997, the real concern for the disease did not come about until 2004, with the first real outbreak of the virus. Therefore, less than two years has been available to research and develop a vaccine. While vaccines have been developed, they are still in trial phases and hope to be complete soon.
To understand the other significant reasoning, you must first understand a little about bird flu and the threat it carries. As of yet, the virus is not a global, imminent concern. The reason for this is that the virus is now only transmittable through poultry and is not passed through human to human contact. Although many people have died, it is still primarily an Asian and European disease and has not reached pandemic proportions. However, that is likely to change soon.
As time goes on, the virus is mutating and is expected to become transmittable through human contact. When this happens, it will very likely spread quickly and devastatingly throughout all regions of the world.
Therefore, the second reason a vaccine has not yet been developed is due to the mutation of the virus. As of yet, the concern regarding the virus is not as drastic as it will be once mutation is complete. If mutation occurs, a vaccine will be essential to control the spread of the virus. However, a vaccine can not be developed to avoid the new version of the virus until it actually mutates. Any vaccine created before then will be useless on the mutated form of the virus as the molecular basis of the disease will change, altering the effectiveness of a vaccine.
It is believed that much of the groundwork has been completed for the mutated virus vaccine, but until mutation occurs, there will be no way of knowing its effectiveness.