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Vaccines Seem Best Strategy to Contain Pandemic Flu

Mobility restrictions might delay virus, but not reduce number of people who become ill, researchers predict

THURSDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- A computer simulation of the potential spread of pandemic flu in the United States suggests that initial vaccination with an avian-based vaccine followed by a vaccine based on human strains would be the best strategy, possibly coupled with school closures and mobility restrictions if a highly transmissible strain emerges, according to a study published online April 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Timothy C. Germann, Ph.D., of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and colleagues developed the model using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Transportation, and tested it based on a national attack rate of about 10 percent, similar to annual influenza epidemics.

If antiviral drugs alone are used, a stockpile of at least 10 million courses would be needed compared with the stockpile of 2.8 million courses now available. This would require extensive planning, but might slow the virus until vaccines were available. Rapid vaccination with a single dose from the pandemic strain would be the most effective single strategy, the report indicates.

"A large stockpile of avian-based vaccine with potential pandemic influenza antigens, coupled with the capacity to rapidly make a better-matched vaccine based on human strains, would be the best strategy to mitigate pandemic influenza," the authors conclude.

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