Vanderbilt doctors closely monitor new flu strain

Vanderbilt doctors closely monitor new flu strain (Image 1)

Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville are continuing to closely monitor a new flu strain.

Dr, Kathryn Edwards is the director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program and the lead investigator of a team of vaccine research experts who are tracking H7N9, a deadly new strain of the avian flu.

Currently the fatal flu virus has killed more than 45 people in China since first emerging.

“We've done this before and we are certainly ready to do this again,” Dr. Edwards told News 2, adding, “The virus is really just an airplane ride away.”

So far the virus has mostly spread from contact with birds, but there is a recent report of a man who spread the infection to his daughters.

“What's now become worrisome with this last report is that if the virus can spread from person to person and not from bird to person, then the potential for it to become much more infected becomes a real threat,” Dr. Edwards explained.

According to Dr. Edwards, Vanderbilt has one of eight national vaccine and treatment evaluation units in the nation.

During the Swine flu pandemic in 2009, the local medical team had a vaccine tested on humans within weeks.

“They obviously wanted to be protected themselves. They also wanted to help and protect others by helping us study these vaccines,” Edwards said.

While there are no reported infections in the United States with the new flu strain, Dr. Edwards and her team said they are ready to act if a call comes from federal health officials.

“When health authorities decide it's time for us to test the vaccine, we're going to be ready,” she said.

The Centers of Disease Control is closely watching for any flu-like symptoms in people who have recently traveled to China, but stress there have been no H7N9 cases reported outside of Asia.

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