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Preparing for a Pandemic: Overview/The Plan to Fight a New Flu

  • Scientists warn that a global epidemic caused by some newly evolved strain of influenza is inevitable and poses an enormous threat to public health.
  • The pandemic could occur soon or not for years. H5N1 bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia, raising alarms. Even if that outbreak wanes, however, a global surveillance network must remain alert for other threatening strains.
  • Flu shots matched to the new virus will arrive too late to prevent or slow the early stages of a pandemic, but rapid response with antiviral drugs might contain an emerging flu strain at its source temporarily, buying time for international preparations.
  • Severity of disease will depend on the pandemic strain. In many places, drug supplies and other health resources will be overwhelmed.
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