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March 12, 2019

Saying another flu pandemic inevitable, WHO launches global strategy

'The question is not if ... but when'

Illness Flu
Flu outbreak Romania public health 03132019 Xinhua/Gabriel Petrescu/Sipa USA

A woman walks with her face covered by a mask on a street in Bucharest, Romania on Feb. 4, 2019. Romanian Ministry of Health had declared a nationwide influenza epidemic and the death toll was rising day by day.

A strategy developed by the World Health Organization will try to protect people around the world from the threat of influenza.

The three-pronged strategy will attempt to prevent seasonal influenza, control the spread of influenza from animals to humans, and prepare for the next influenza pandemic, the agency said.

“The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement as the agency released its Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030.


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“The ongoing risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially causing a pandemic is real," he added. "The question is not if we will have another pandemic, but when. We must be vigilant and prepared – the cost of a major influenza outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention.”

1 BILLION GLOBAL CASES ANNUALLY

Annually, there are an estimated 1 billion flu cases around the world, with as many as 5 million of those cases considered severe, according to WHO. Typically, the annual death toll from influenza-related respiratory deaths rised to between 290,000 to 650,000.

One hundred years after a flu pandemic claimed from 50 million to 100 million lives worldwide – 670,000 Americans died, including about 12,000 in Philadelphia alone – the virus remains one of the world’s greatest public health challenges.

The organization recommends annual influenza vaccination as the most effective way to prevent influenza. It is especially important for high-risk people and for health care workers.

The new influenza strategy complements two successful programs. The Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), composed of WHO Collaborating Centres and national influenza centres, have jointly monitored seasonal trends and potentially pandemic viruses. The system is central to the global alert system for influenza.

You can read more on the global strategy here.

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