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Search on for anti-bird flu vaccine

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Search on for anti-bird flu vaccine

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The race is on to find an effective vaccine against bird flu after confirmation that the most deadly strain has been found in Turkey. It is feared that samples in Romania will also test positive for the virulent H5N1 form which can kill humans.

The EU Commission has warned that Europe must prepare for a possible pandemic and has urged member states to stockpile anti-viral drugs. The Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche is in a strong position. Demand for its medicine Tamiflu is set to soar and in Asia calls are growing for governmentsto ask the company for the rights to copy the drug. However, experts warn that Tamiflu may not protect people from a mutated form of the disease. Other firms working on a vaccine include GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis. Thousands of birds have been culled in Romania to prevent the spread of the virus. The EU has banned the import of live birds, poultry meat and feathers from the country for at least six months. A similar measure is in place against Turkish products. Russia first reported a strain of the deadly virus in 2004. Since then it has spread westwards, reaching the fringes of the European Union.