Epidemic Science in Real Time

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 987
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176297

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Few situations more dramatically illustrate the salience of science to policy than an epidemic. The relevant science takes place rapidly and continually, in the laboratory, clinic, and community. In facing the current swine flu (H1N1 influenza) outbreak, the world has benefited from research investment over many years, as well as from preparedness exercises and planning in many countries. The global public health enterprise has been tempered by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002–2003, the ongoing threat of highly pathogenic avian flu, and concerns over bioterrorism. Researchers and other experts are now able to make vital contributions in real time. By conducting the right science and communicating expert judgment, scientists can enable policies to be adjusted appropriately as an epidemic scenario unfolds.