Emerging Infections: Pandemic Influenza

Pandemics of influenza have been recognized since earliest recorded history and, because of the mutability of the virus, still represent a formidable threat to the health of the nation. Although much progress has been made in describing the molecular aspects of the virus, in elucidating the epidemiology and modes of spread, and in developing methods for prevention and treatment, a rational strategy for control has not been established. The trends of modern society, including the increasing availability of rapid human transportation and the urbanization of the rapidly expanding human population, tend to facilitate the spread of influenza and increase morbidity. Modern medicine can reduce the mortality that resulted from complications of infection with influenza virus during earlier epidemics, but the cost of medical interventions has increased to the point that effective methods of epidemic control should be considered. This challenge provides an opportunity to develop, test, and have in place a strategy for control of interpandemic influenza before the next pandemic