Also on Thursday, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the virus has not yet mutated to become more dangerous, although they continue to follow its progress globally, the AP reported. Dr. Nancy Cox, chief of CDC's influenza division, called the lack of genetic variation in the H1N1 strain "quite surprising" given the pathogen's quick spread.
In the meantime, the United States is readying its first human trials of an experimental vaccine to protect against the H1N1 swine flu virus, officials announced Wednesday.
Two possible vaccines will be tested at eight institutions around the country under the auspices of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), officials said.
The purpose of the trials, said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci in a prepared statement, is to "determine whether the vaccines are safe and to assess their ability to induce protective immune responses. These data will be factored into the decision about how and if to implement a 2009 H1N1 flu immunization program this fall."
The announcement followed Tuesday's revelation that two Australian biotechnology companies have started inoculating adult volunteers in the world's first H1N1 swine flu vaccine trials. Those trials, as well as the trials planned in the United States, hope to produce an effective shot against the virus that has so far killed more than 700 people worldwide.
In the United States, several trials will be conducted concurrently, officials said.
"I think the speed with which they [federal officials] got this going is impressive," said one expert, Dr. John J. Treanor, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the Unive
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