Two major pharmaceutical companies revealed they are working on a vaccine for avian influenza, also known as bird flu, to be given to humans.
In a statement to Scripps News, a spokesperson for GSK said the company was awarded contracts with the U.S., Canada, the European Union and the World Health Organization to supply a vaccine should a pandemic be declared.
"This will ensure the ready production and supply of this vaccine, and together could provide at least 200 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine to governments around the world," the spokesperson stated.
Moderna said it expects to start clinical studies for a pandemic bird influenza vaccine this year.
Bird flu naturally spreads among wild birds and other animals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a small number of humans have contracted H5N1 in the past, but there are no known cases of human-to-human spread.
However, health officials are concerned that newer strains of bird flu could potentially jump to a wider group of humans.
This year, bird flu was discovered in mink at a farm in Spain. A report in Eurosurveillance notes that mink could serve as a "potential mixing vessel for the interspecies transmission" among birds, mammals and even humans.
While the development is worth monitoring, the CDC says bird flu is still believed to pose a low risk to people in the U.S.