Throughout recent recorded history the influenza disease has been responsible for numerous recurrent pandemic outbreaks. These disease outbreaks have claimed the lives of millions worldwide since the early 1900s. Thus, the significance of the influenza disease including; symptoms, transmissibility, and target population make the disease especially noteworthy for further study and assessment. Subsequently, the disease is caused by viral infection (Vaccine, 2008). The influenza viron is a spherical enveloped virus with characteristic hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) glycoproteins attached to the membrane.
These glycoproteins are studied intensely by scientists, as they are key to determining the subtype of the particular influenza virus and are responsible for electing an immune response in the host. Additionally, the history behind influenza is infamous with pandemics occurring in 1919, 1957, 1968, and as recently as 2010 (FLU, Gov). As a result of the dangers of reoccurring pandemics, an influenza vaccine is constructed and distributed to the world’s population each year. Governments have subsequently worked closely with scientist and drug developers to develop and manufacture an efficacious and safe vaccine for influenza (FLU, Gov). Additionally, governments have developed in-depth containment plans for controlling any possible future outbreaks. Furthermore, research utilizing the influenza virus and outbreak models has allowed governments to plan and execute the necessary actions, which must be taken during the event of a pandemic disease outbreak.
As stated, the influenza disease is caused by viral infection. It is a highly contagious disease, which typically requires two to four days for incubation. Once infected with the disease individuals will be contagious for one to four days before symptoms are apparent. Symptoms include; fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle or body aches and fatigue (Global Biotech, 2014). The major reservoir for the virus is waterfowl, which then spread versions of the virus to; pigs, horses, fish and humans (Global Biotech, 2014). The virus strains that are responsible for the majority of human infections include the H1N1, H3N2 and a B-strain (Global Biotech, 2014). Subsequently, over the past 31 years the flu is suspected to be responsible for the deaths of up to 49,000 people. While this number may seem extremely high, earlier pandemics starting from 1918 saw much higher mortality rates, with over 50 million deaths during 1918 and1919 (Flu, GOV).
Due to an obvious need to control outbreaks and spread of the flu the world and national governing bodies have worked tirelessly to develop efficacious and safe vaccines that can be prepared in a cost-effective manner and made available to individuals of all income classes. Thusly, the flu vaccine is the most actively researched vaccine on the planet as a new vaccine is developed and manufactured under the oversight of the World Health Organization (Global Biotech, 2008). In order to stay ahead of an ever-evolving influenza virus representatives of the WHO meet twice a year to determine the composition of the next influenza vaccine (Global Biotech, 2008). Subsequently, the WHO is a specialized government agency birthed out of the world governing United Nations. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland the present task of the WHO is to monitor and maintain the public health of the world’s inhabitants (Global Biotech, 2014). Additionally, the WHO and US governments have constructed models to plan for how to contain and mitigate a possible future pandemic. Government models for potential disease outbreaks currently focus on containment interventions (Vaccine, 2008).
Although the current disease state of the flu appears to be mostly under control, historically the flu has scorched the earth in the form of difficult to control pandemic outbreaks. Primary occurrence of the first major pandemic was in 1919, when an unknown flu strain swept the earth killing 50 million people worldwide and over 600,000 in the US. During this time scientists and researchers attempted many remedies including extreme cases where doctors attempted to “bleed out” the disease from patients (FLU, Gov). After this initial pandemic, outbreaks were recorded during 1957-1958, 1968-1969, and most recently in 2010. Additional, pandemic threats of swine flu, and occurrences of new flu viruses were also recorded during the 1970s and the late 1990s (FLU, Gov). During these outbreaks and threats of outbreaks governments have learned to implement control plans and have realized the importance of developing vaccines that are chemically stable. The goal of world governments through the WHO organization is thus to develop am attenuated strain of the vaccine that specific to the predicted strain for that current year.
In conclusion, research for designing a safe and efficacious flu vaccine is performed year round. The US government awards contracts to the following manufactures; GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune Inc., Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, DynPort Vaccine Company, LLC, Solvay Pharmaceuticals to research and manufacture flu vaccines (Global Biotech, 2014). These companies receive over 1$ billion over a period of 5 years and must produce data and finished product in accordance with government requirements for a stable vaccine. Current research is geared towards developing a drug that may be lyophilized and reconstituted. Thusly, a vaccine that breaks the “cold-chain” requirement for refrigeration, and may be manufactured cost-effectively is constantly sought (Global Biotech, 2014). The future of vaccination appears to be generation of drugs that adhere to these standards for; low cost manufacture, safety, efficacy, and stability.