Lake Charles Gets Head Start On Bird Flu Prevention - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles Gets Head Start On Bird Flu Prevention

April 22, 2006
Reported by Vince Atkinson 

The bird flu is an issue that has medical experts around the globe on the edge of their seats and looking for answers. As the virus continues to mutate, some fear it could soon develop into a pandemic. That has cities all across the United States struggling to come up with some kind of contingency plan. Southwest Louisiana may soon be better prepared than many other cities.

Listening to birds sing in the park may seem harmless, and so far it is harmless here in the United States. Health experts warn that the bird flu could soon pose a health risk right here in our country. Scientists believe that with every bird that migrates to the U.S. from other parts of the world, the chances of a bird flu outbreak are increased.

U.S. Antigens, a bio-tech firm out of Baton Rouge is working on a vaccine that could protect against the potentially deadly virus. Even more exciting, the company, along with some help from the City of Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish, plans to produce the vaccine in Southwest Louisiana.

Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said, "The city and the parish are each going to pick up a third of the lease. That should be about $22,000 to $23,000 a year." That may sound like a lot of money, but helping out with the start up cost for this local venture comes with benefits. Roach said, "If they do develop a vaccine and start producing a vaccine for the bird flu, we would have access to acquire some of that vaccine for our area." That will give Southwest Louisiana first "dibbs" on what will surely be a hot commodity in the event of an outbreak.

Roach said, "We are hoping that they may really help us put our area on the map from a bio-tech stand point, and actually create an opportunity for us." That is an opportunity that could attract other bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies to Southwest Louisiana, as well as new jobs.

City leaders say U. S. Antigens' lease in Lake Charles begins May 1, 2006. The company will be in a position to begin manufacturing sometime next fall.

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