The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Cairo University has succeeded in producing the first Egyptian vaccine against avian flu, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy for Agricultural Sciences at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute.
Ahmed El-Senoussy, professor of virus sciences at Cairo University, said the vaccine had been thoroughly tested in the past three years. Preliminary tests were conducted in China. The genetics of the avian flu virus (H5N1) had been examined using state-of-the-art technology. “Finally we reached the vaccine which has been tested on local poultry for the past three months,” El-Senoussy told Ahram Online.
“Preliminary results have found that the vaccine is 100 per cent effective,” El Senoussy said. “However, when tested on Egyptian poultry under local conditions in Egypt, it protects 93 per cent of the flock.” According to El-Senousy, for the time being the result is the best possible, especially that the project budget has exceeded LE55 million ($9,470,000) paid equally by the Egyptian and Chinese governments
The new vaccine is effective for one year, though poultry must receive an additional dose six months after getting the first shot. The Veterinary Services Authority (VSA) has already launched the vaccine on the market, as the virus is particularly active during the winter season. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation is providing the vaccine for free to owners of large poultry farms. Individual breeders in rural areas can vaccinate their poultry at VSA-affiliated units also for free.
The vaccine’s efficacy can be determined approximately 90 days from the date that chickens are first vaccinated.
According to Mona Mehrez, head of the poultry labs, at the Ministry of Agriculture, the vaccine is safe. “Consumers when eating poultry will not feel any difference, whether in the taste or the texture of the meat,” Mehrez told Ahram Online.
Last month, Ministry of Health Spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shahin announced the death of a 30-year-old female in the Gharbeya governorate due to bird flu. It was the 137th death related to bird flu in Egypt since the disease first appeared in 2006 and the tenth bird flu-related fatality in 2010.
In related news, officials recently revealed that 218 cases of swine flu were reported in Egypt between 12-18 December. Last year, when swine flu was considered a serious pandemic, there were 10,599 cases in Egypt and 134 related fatalities.