Sunday, May 10, 2009

World is Better Prepared for an Influenza Pandemic

In an address during the ASEAN+3 Health Ministers’ Special Meeting on Influenza A(H1N1) in Bangkok on 8 May, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan applauded health ministers for their diligence over the past five years in tracking, reporting, and treating the H5N1 influenza virus in humans and animals. Dr. Chan went on to mention that H5N1 “taught the world to expect a pandemic, and to plan for this event,” and because of those efforts, "[t]he world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history….” Due to pandemic preparedness initiatives, over the past five years, nations across the world have worked to develop preparedness plans and cultivate vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Dr. Chan did urge health ministers to use science to inform public health action in dealing with the current influenza A(H1N1) virus:

“Countries will, quite rightly, want to do everything possible to prevent the arrival of the [H1N1] virus or, once in a country, to delay its further spread and thus flatten the epidemiological peak. At the same time, it is important for countries to refrain from introducing economically and socially disruptive measures that lack solid scientific backing and bring no clear public health benefit.”

After making these statements, Dr. Chan made two additional requests for responding to influenza A(H1N1):
1. Do not drop the ball on monitoring H5N1. This virus is endemic in poultry in parts of the region. We have no idea how H5N1 will behave under the pressure of a pandemic.
2. Battle misperceptions with the facts, and respond to the disease with facts.

Read the transcript of the address at:

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