Published on Wednesday 6 April 2011 13:40

Governments should start vaccinations against a lethal strain of the influenza virus circulating in birds and pigs, The Independent has reported.

The news is based on an article written by US vaccine researchers, who said that an old flu strain known as H2N2, which caused a pandemic in the 1950s and 60s, could easily start circulating again in humans. The researchers also conducted a small test of 90 people, which showed that people under the age of 50 have little or no immunity to the strain. They argue that creating a new vaccination programme to deal with this strain of flu could save lives by preventing a potential pandemic.


The report was written by researchers working at the Vaccine Research Centre of the US National Institutes of Health. The researchers did not report any sources of external funding. The report was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.


This commentary, written by vaccine researchers, argued that government regulatory authorities should plan for a vaccination programme against an old flu strain called H2N2. They warned that this strain is circulating in birds and pigs and could jump to humans, as the H1N1 swine flu strain did in 2009.


The authors of this comment article say that the unexpected origin of the H1N1 pandemic provides a “cautionary tale” for the public health community, and that the H2N2 strain constitutes a possible public health threat as it could re-emerge in a similar way. They argue that government regulatory agencies should develop a pre-emptive vaccine programme against H2N2.

The researchers draw a number of parallels between the H1N1 and H2N2 viruses. For example, they have both caused pandemics: from 1957 to 1968, an H2N2 strain caused 1-4 million deaths worldwide. Like the 1918 strain, the H2N2 virus has not circulated in humans for several decades but continues to do so among birds and pigs.


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