UIHC Tests New Flu Vaccine

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jill Kasparie

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Doctors are waging a battle against a new flu virus.

Researchers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are taking part in a clinical trial to test a new vaccine for the H3N2 Variant flu virus. It’s a virus that’s similar to the H1N1 virus from 2009.

In the past two years, some people have come down with this strain of the flu who were exposured to pig displays at agricultural fairs. Doctors mostly saw the cases in the summer.

Health experts are working on this vaccine because this virus seemingly spreads more easily to people from swine than other viruses like it.

For Mary Ann Lewis, taking part in studies at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is nothing new. This is the third time she's taken part in a flu vaccine study. She's one of fifty local participants in the clinical trial, and doctors are watching her response to the new vaccine. The Fairfax woman just got her first of two doses.

"If I can help people in any way or in any of these studies, I think it's worthwhile,” Lewis said.

In the past couple of years about 300 people across the U.S. have come down with this flu. Dr. Pat Winokur is leading the clinical trial at UIHC and said very few cases have popped up in Iowa.

"This is a brand new strain, again, and it's not one that our body has seem much of in the past," Dr. Winokur said. "So, we don't have a lot of pre-existing immunity in our bodies to this strain."

UIHC is one of four hospitals conducting this study in the nation, and the hope is it will prevent another strain of the flu from becoming a big problem later on.

"We worry that this could be like 2009, a strain that spreads around the world," Dr. Winokur said. "So, we're trying to develop a vaccine before that happens."

If that takes a couple pokes in the arm, Mary Ann is okay with it.

"[I hope] that it works out and other people can get the vaccine and keep us from getting sick,” Lewis said.

Doctors said H3N2v can change or mutate and become more dangerous than it currently is right now. The strain is not aggressively spreading from person to person.

“The vaccine company, once they have the data, which they will have in a few months, they could scale up production of this vaccine probably in six months,” Dr. Winokur said.

240 healthy adults age 18 and up are taking part in the study at hospitals across the U.S.
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