Two drug companies have been awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with contracts to manufacture vaccine against bird flu. The department is preparing for the possible return of the highly-pathogenic avian influenza virus at the end of this year.

France-based Ceva Corp and Iowa-based Harrisvaccines will both manufacture an undisclosed supply of vaccines that will last for five years, according to the USDA. The companies are required to test their drugs for potency.

The National Veterinary Stockpile will also ask for a supply of finished vaccines from the companies, and according to the contract, these vaccines should be delivered within 10 days of request. The vaccines under this award include either full or conditional licenses from the Center for Veterinary Biologics, and were cautiously assessed based on different factors such as their effectiveness against Eurasian (EA) H5 viruses.

However, USDA said that the use of the vaccine in birds has not been approved by the APHIS, and that the agency has not yet decided whether to use such vaccines in a future outbreak.

Earlier this year, the country was hit by an EA H5 strain. The virus was detected in wild birds and in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that human risk from the avian influenza was low.

In August, APHIS said that they had plans to create a poultry stockpile of vaccine for the virus. The agency then issued request for proposals (RFPs) from vaccine manufacturers.

APHIS now urges vaccine makers to produce and develop products that can boost the stockpile of vaccine in case the avian influenza outbreak happens again. With that, they will continue to issue such RFPs quarterly until September 2016.

Meanwhile, USDA and Iowa State University have partnered to translate USDA biosecurity training materials from English into Spanish. This was done to help farmers and on-farm workers understand ways to prevent bird flu infections.

Iowa is the top producer of eggs in the country. The state was greatly affected by one of the worst ever bird flu outbreaks in U.S. history. Almost 50 million birds nationwide were culled because of the incident.

Photo : OliBac | Flickr

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