Editorials

When the next influenza pandemic comes

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7102.204 (Published 26 July 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:204

Be prepared, or procrastinate and panic

  1. R T Mayon White, Consultant in communicable disease controla
  1. a Oxfordshire Health Authority, Oxford OX3 7LG

    An influenza virus may emerge against which most people in the world have no immunity. This will be the next influenza pandemic, with high attack rates in all ages, a risk of high death rates, and a heavy burden on health services. It is prudent to prepare for such a pandemic, particularly if there are actions that could prevent or reduce severe morbidity. At an international meeting in Washington in 1995, countries from around the world met to discuss their plans of attack.

    Britain's health departments have now published their plans,1 revealing as much about the convoluted organisation of health services as about the epidemiology of influenza. The plans concentrate on the actions of central agencies, as a framework on which health authorities and trusts should make local plans. When most people working at the local level in the NHS are struggling with the existing workload and budgetary constraints, it is tempting to shy away from preparing for an influenza pandemic.

    Previous pandemics have been due to influenza A viruses and have occurred at irregular intervals: 1889, 1918, 1957, and …

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