Help test a vaccine to prevent avian flu

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Barbara Ruben

Bird flu has been out of the news for a while, but that doesn’t mean it may not be a threat at some point, or that it might not cause serious disease. The flu strain known as H5N1 has caused large outbreaks in domestic poultry in parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Although H5N1 does not usually infect humans, nearly 650 cases of bird flu in humans have been reported from 15 countries since 2003. Most human cases of this avian flu infection have occurred in people who had recent contact with sick or dead poultry that were infected with H5N1 viruses.

About 60 percent of people infected with the virus died from their illness. Like the seasonal flu, H5N1 may strike those with weaker immune systems and older adults particularly hard.

That’s why studies for a vaccine that can prevent infection with H5N1 are underway. To date, no vaccines for bird flu have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Optimal Research in Rockville, Md., is now seeking volunteers for a study of a possible vaccine.

The vaccine under study is in a Phase III trial, meaning it has already gone through two prior rounds of tests and is now in the final step before being approved.

How to volunteer

Those who want to enroll in the study must be at least 18 years old and in general good health.

The study entails a screening visit and one dose of the vaccine. Participants will then return to Optimal Research’s office several more times for follow-up visits.

While many people will not experience any side effects from the vaccine, some may get “pretty mild flu-like symptoms, like from your annual flu vaccine,” said Holly Hoeffer, director of patient recruitment at Optimal Research.

The study offers compensation for time and travel.

For more information, call (301) 309-8610, email, or visit