Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

World Is Ill-Prepared for "Inevitable" Flu Pandemic

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

World Is Ill-Prepared for "Inevitable" Flu Pandemic

Article excerpt

The recent avian influenza outbreaks in Asia serve as stark reminders that another influenza pandemic is inevitable and possibly imminent, said WHO Director-General, Dr LEE Jong-wook, during a conference on influenza preparedness hosted by WHO on 16-18 March 2004.

"We know another pandemic is "inevitable," said LEE. "It is coming. And when this happens, we also know that we are unlikely to have enough drugs, vaccines, health-care workers and hospital capacity to cope in an ideal way."

Poultry culling and other measures may have reduced the likelihood of a human pandemic influenza strain emerging soon from Asia as a consequence of avian flu. However, experts believe that because these outbreaks come in cycles, a human influenza pandemic must be expected at some time in the future. (See related editorial, Avian flu and pandemic influenza, on p. 242 in this month's issue of the Bulletin.)

The three-day global consultation on priority public health interventions before and during an influenza pandemic brought together experts from all regions on influenza, public health, health economics, health policy, drugs and pharmaceuticals, infection control measures, disease surveillance, modelling and risk communication.

Objectives of the meeting included the identification of practical measures and feasible interventions aimed at increasing access and use of vaccine and antivirals, sound public health measures that may slow down the initial spread of a pandemic virus and reduce its impact on the population, and surveillance strategies that would rapidly detect a new pandemic virus and monitor its spread.

Epidemiological models indicate that an influenza pandemic will pose a major disease and economic burden both in developed and developing countries. "Once a pandemic has begun, we must be ready to implement without delays the key activities required to minimize its impact. Therefore the planning and implementation of preparatory activities must start well in advance," said Dr Marla Esveld from WHO's department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response. "Few countries have so far developed and approved influenza pandemic preparedness plans. …

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