The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present. A pandemic can arise when a new influenza virus that hasn’t affected humans before emerges, spreads and causes illness in humans.
Influenza viruses are unpredictable – we can never be certain of when or from where the next pandemic will arise. However, another influenza pandemic is inevitable. In this interconnected world, the question is not if we will have another pandemic, but when.
To protect people across the globe from this threat, the WHO has released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030. The new strategy is the most comprehensive and far reaching influenza strategy that WHO has developed. The strategy outlines a framework for WHO, countries and partners to work together to prepare for, prevent, and control the influenza.
1. Another influenza pandemic will happen – it’s a question of when
We know there will be another influenza pandemic at some point. In 1918, we had the most devastating infectious disease event in recorded history: the 1918 influenza pandemic. Since 1918 three influenza pandemics have occurred – in 1957, 1968 and 2009 (H1N1). The risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially causing a pandemic is real and serves as a warning that we must continue to be prepared for the next pandemic.
2. Influenza is already a major health challenge
Seasonal influenza represents a year-round disease burden. Every year, there are an estimated 1 billion cases, of which 3 to 5 million are severe cases, with 290 000 to 650 000 influenza-related respiratory deaths worldwide. Reducing the impact of seasonal flu through better surveillance, prevention and control helps countries prepare for a pandemic.
Do your part to help prevent influenza and get your annual influenza shot. It is the most effective way to prevent the flu.
3. We are better prepared than we have been – but still not prepared enough
While there has been much work over the years to prepare for a pandemic, there is still much work to be done. It is critical that all health systems across the world are ready to prevent and control influenza.
We need our health systems to be strong and healthy.
4. We are all connected
Because we are all connected, collaboration is key to the ensuring the world’s preparedness for an influenza pandemic. WHO, countries and partners will work together to achieve the strategy’s goals and will align global and national capacities for influenza prevention, rapid detection and response.
5. We need better tools to combat influenza
Through this strategy, WHO and partners will promote the development of better global tools to prevent, detect, control and treat influenza. These tools include more effective vaccines, antivirals and treatments. The goal is to make these accessible for all countries.
6. All countries are affected
Building stronger country capacities in disease surveillance, response, prevention and control, and preparedness is a primary goal of this strategy. To achieve this, it calls for every country to have an evidence-based and tailored influenza programme.
7. It costs less to prepare than to respond
The cost of major influenza outbreaks will far outweigh the price of preparedness. A severe pandemic can result in millions of deaths globally, with widespread social and economic effects. The cost of pandemic preparedness has been estimated at less than US$ 1 per person per year, which is less than 1% of the cost estimates for responding to a pandemic.
8. The Global Influenza Strategy benefits more than just influenza preparedness
By investing in influenza prevention, control and preparedness efforts, countries will all see benefits beyond influenza through overall strengthening of their health care systems. Countries can link their influenza efforts with other national and global efforts dedicated to health security and universal healthcare.