MOSCOW, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - If a form of bird flu that can be transmitted from human to human develops, Russia will be ready with a vaccine within a month, the health minister said Friday.
Although there have been dozens of fatalities from consumption of contaminated poultry throughout the world since the outbreak in Southeast Asia in 2004, no cases of the virus being transmitted from one person to another have been recorded and so no vaccine has yet been made.
"Only when a pandemic virus strain develops will a vaccine be created, and it will not take long - only about a month," Mikhail Zurabov said after a meeting of health ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations in Moscow.
He said Russian scientists were working on two potential vaccines.
"The vaccines have undergone pre-clinical tests ... and I hope they will be completed in three to four months," Zurabov said.
He also said that Russia and other former Soviet republics were monitoring the bird flu virus, and placed identified strains in a special bank.
Zurabov said the world had no way yet to cure human bird flu cases. However, he said Russia was accumulating stocks of anti-viral medicines against traditional flu and preparing beds in hospitals for future possible patients.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt said the currently available medicines on the market only relieved the symptoms of the disease but were not universally effective.
Leavitt quoted American scientists as saying that people had to be very careful in using medicines, except those whose safety has been proved.
He added that many countries had already developed their own vaccines based on candidate virus strains but few of them had the facilities to produce the vaccines.