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
Severity of disease will depend on the pandemic strain. In many places, drug
supplies and other health resources will be overwhelmed.