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HOLLY SPRINGS, NC (AP) — A North Carolina vaccine plant is ready to gear up to fight a flu pandemic should one strike the United States.

State and federal officials on Monday mark the Novartis plant in Holly Springs as ready to react if there’s a serious flu outbreak.

The Swiss pharmaceuticals maker’s plant in southern Wake County opened two years ago with the US Health and Human Services Department allocating about half the $1 billion cost.

Novartis said the plant will be able to supply millions of doses of flu vaccine if a severe outbreak is declared.

The plant develops flu vaccines using cell cultures, a more efficient method to produce vaccine than the slow method of cultivating seed virus in chicken eggs. Novartis already operates a cell-based flu vaccines plant in Germany.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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