Russia is conducting clinical trials of bird flu vaccines by which it hopes to avoid a bird-flu pandemic that could affect up to one-third of the population.
Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief medical officer, told a board session of the Health and Social Development Ministry Wednesday that up to 50 million people could contract the disease during the first wave of a possible bird-flu pandemic, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
He said Russia would need 170,000 doctors to cope with 1 million patients in hospitals if a pandemic hit the country.
Onishchenko expressed concern over an outbreak in the neighboring nation of Azerbaijan, where seven confirmed human cases, including five fatalities, have been reported.
Mikhail Zurabov, Russia's health minister, said Wednesday that clinical trials of three vaccines based on the H5N1 strain could be completed within three months.
He said Russia would be able to produce more than 8 million doses of bird flu vaccine a month once the testing is over and it would take no more than five weeks to modify the new vaccines, should the H5N1 strain mutate.
Some 190 people in more than 50 countries have been infected so far and 107 of them have died.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
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