Influenza is a highly contagious virus that is spread easily from person to person, primarily when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before influenza symptoms appear. The influenza virus causes "the flu," one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season.
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine business of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, intends to replace an existing facility in Swiftwater, doubling the site's capability for producing influenza vaccine.
"This facility will contribute strongly to the public health of our nation, as it will help provide an adequate supply of influenza vaccines that will be available for future influenza seasons and the millions of Americans who receive the vaccine every year," said Senator Rick Santorum.
The new 145,000 square-foot, $150 million (€123 million) manufacturing plant is in keeping with Sanofi Pasteur's strategy toward reliable planning and production of the influenza vaccine, both in the US and abroad.
As part of these efforts, the company is participating in a number of important initiatives for pandemic planning, and was awarded four related contracts with the United States government, including a $97 million contract to accelerate the development of cell-culture technology for influenza vaccines.
The Swiftwater site, under various owners, has produced influenza vaccine for 58 years. Today the company manufactures several versions and presentations of Fluzone Influenza Virus Vaccine, including the only influenza vaccine approved for use in the US for children 6 to 35 months of age.
In addition to Fluzone vaccine, Sanofi Pasteur manufactures Vaxigrip Influenza Virus Vaccine at a facility located in Val de Reuil, France, which is licensed for use outside the US.
Influenza causes an average of 200,000 hospitalisations in the US every year. Combined with pneumonia, influenza is the seventh leading cause of death in the nation. Influenza can lead to serious complications by aggravating existing medical conditions; it can also lead to infections of the brain, heart and other organs.
Classically, influenza is characterised by the abrupt onset of high fever, chills, a dry cough, headache, runny nose, sore throat and muscle and joint pain. It can cause extreme fatigue that may last days or weeks. However, only about 50 per cent of individuals will exhibit these classical symptoms.