Although a small number of avian flu cases have been diagnosed in humans, health experts fear that the virus may mutate and easily spread from person to person. If this happens, the virus may trigger a pandemic that could kill millions of people worldwide.

Chiron Corporation, whose plant was shutdown last year in Liverpool, was awarded a $62.5 million contract to produce millions of doses of a vaccine against the strain of bird flu by the US government. They will produce a large number of doses of its vaccine to combat the H5N1 strain of influenza and the production should be finished sometime in 2006.

This contract is important as it will increase the supplies of the vaccine to protect 20 million Americans against the disease. The government will be also purchasing enough antiviral drugs, which can also be used to keep off the illness and treat another 20 million Americans.