The US pandemic influenza implementation plan at six months

There has been great concern recently about pandemic influenza. The US government developed a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza in November 2005, followed by an implementation plan in May 2006. A six-month progress report was published in late December. The current strategies are intended to improve preparedness and response for the next influenza pandemic. In comparison with the optimistic neglect that often characterized past planning for pandemic influenza, there has been considerable progress on a number of fronts in the past year. Despite this progress, major gaps remain. These include the coordination, encouragement and funding of international surveillance and cooperation; the need for new and more agile vaccine technologies; limitations in the use and distribution of antiviral agents; and communication with, and resources for, local responders and the public. One question is why, despite an estimated 36,000 seasonal influenza deaths annually in the United States alone, and a much greater number during pandemics, relatively little new basic research has been done for decades. This emphasizes both the need for and the difficulty of sustaining pandemic preparedness.