Are We Ready for Pandemic Influenza?

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Science  28 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5650, pp. 1519-1522
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090350

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During the past year, the public has become keenly aware of the threat of emerging infectious diseases with the global spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the continuing threat of bioterrorism, the proliferation of West Nile virus, and the discovery of human cases of monkeypoxin the United States. At the same time, an old foe has again raised its head, reminding us that our worst nightmare may not be a new one. In 2003, highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza virus, including the H5N1 and H7N7 subtypes, again crossed from birds to humans and caused fatal disease. Direct avian-to-human influenza transmission was unknown before 1997. Have we responded to these threats by better preparing for emerging disease agents, or are we continuing to act only as crises arise? Here we consider progress to date in preparedness for an influenza pandemic and review what remains to be done. We conclude by prioritizing the remaining needs and exploring the reasons for our current lack of preparedness for an influenza pandemic.

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