Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Computer Prediction: Only Vaccine Can Stop Flu Pandemic -- but Strategies May Buy Time

Computer Prediction: Only Vaccine Can Stop Flu Pandemic -- but Strategies May Buy Time

Pandemic Flu Vaccine: Best Hope Not Yet Here

"A vaccine certainly could blunt the impact so that less than 50% of the population gets infected if a substantial proportion is immunized," Burke says.

There's only one problem here: such a vaccine doesn't yet exist. It may be years away. But so may the next flu pandemic. Even if the H5N1 bird flu -- now quickly spreading in Asian, Middle Eastern, and European birds -- learns to spread among humans, there's no way of knowing when it will happen or how bad it really will be.

When there's a vaccine against a pandemic form of flu, it won't have to be perfectly effective to save millions of lives. But it will have to work quickly. The vaccine currently being tested takes two immunizations several weeks apart. That won't be fast enough to stop a flu pandemic, the computer model predicts.

That's also the prediction of biostatistician Hulin Wu, PhD, chief of the division of biomedical modeling and informatics and director of the center for biodefense immune modeling at the University of Rochester in New York.

"Once you discover this kind of new strain of virus, it is already too late to develop a new vaccine," Wu tells WebMD. "People have to manufacture the vaccine the year before for it to be effective. And then you have to vaccinate people."

Flu Drugs Not Likely to Stop Pandemic

Antiviral drugs get a lot of press -- and many people have stockpiled their own personal stash of Tamiflu. But the computer model shows that there aren't enough antiviral drugs in the world to stop a flu pandemic.

"Antivirals require a huge amount for prevention," Burke says. "They certainly can work, but they are only useful for the 10 days you are using them to prevent infection. The total amount needed to impact the epidemic would be a huge amount, well beyond what is available."

Fortunately, there is a third strategy. Scientists call it "social distancing." Social-distancing techniques include quarantine of ill people and their families, closing schools and workplaces, and restricting travel.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat