Pandemic Influenza: Domestic Preparedness Efforts
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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In 1997, a new avian influenza virus H5N1 avian flu emerged in Hong Kong, killing 6 people. This was the first time that an avian influenza virus was shown to be transmitted directly from birds to humans. The virus persisted in the region, and has since spread to a number of Asian and European countries where it has infected more than 120 people, killing more than 60. The severity of this strain is similar to that of the deadly 1918 Spanish flu, which caused a global pandemic. Though influenza pandemics occur with some regularity, and the United States has been involved in specific planning efforts since the early 1990s, the H5N1 situation has created a sense of urgency among the worlds public health officials. Global pandemic preparedness and response efforts are coordinated by the World Health Organization WHO. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HHS released a draft pandemic flu preparedness and response plan in August 2004, and a final plan in November 2005. President Bush announced a national strategy to coordinate pandemic preparedness and response activities across federal agencies. Domestic response activities will be carried out under the broad, all-hazards blueprint for a coordinated federal, state, and local response laid out in the National Response Plan, released by the Department of Homeland Security DHS in 2004. If a flu pandemic were to occur in the next several years, the U.S. response would be affected by the limited availability of a vaccine the best preventive measure for flu, as well as by limited availability of certain drugs used to treat severe flu infections, and by the general lack of surge capacity within the healthcare system. The U.S. healthcare system is largely private, while the public health system is largely based in state, rather than federal, authority. This structure creates numerous challenges in assuring the needed response capacity, and coordinating the various response elements.
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