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Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 10:27 GMT
Drug jobs saved to fight bird flu
Relenza may help to fight avian flu
Workers are being taken on at a previously mothballed drug factory in Cumbria to help in the global fight against bird flu.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is taking on 12 workers to man its Ulverston production line and has also delayed the departure of 16 staff who were taking redundancy.

They will help make stocks of the anti-viral drug, Relenza, in case of a world-wide flu pandemic.

But the firm has stressed the jobs are only temporary.

Also known as avian flu, the virus affects migrating fowl and domestic birds.

The current strain is called H5N1 and was first discovered in Hong Kong in 1997.

Major threat

To date, more than 100 people, mainly in south-east Asia, have caught the virus and more than half have died.

Dr Frank Atherton, the director of Public Health in Morecambe Bay, said: "People who develop early symptoms and are in a high risk category, such as those with heart disease or diabetes, would take the drug within 48 hours and we know this would reduce the risk of complication.

"We also know the drugs would reduce the severity of the virus."

A statement on the pharmaceutical firm's website said: "GSK is planning for a potential flu pandemic by investing in the development of a vaccine for the H5N1 strain of flu and the increased production of Relenza.

"The main concern is that migrating birds will spread this form of flu to the rest of the world and create conditions that make it easy for the virus to pass to humans."

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