Influenza Pandemic: Efforts to Forestall Onset Are Under Way; Identifying Countries at Greatest Risk Entails Challenges
Since 2003, a global epidemic of avian influenza has raised concern about the risk of an influenza pandemic among humans, which could cause millions of deaths. The United States and its international partners have begun implementing a strategy to forestall (prevent or delay) a pandemic and prepare to cope should one occur. Disease experts generally agree that the risk of a pandemic strain emerging from avian influenza in a given country varies with (1) environmental factors, such as disease presence and certain high-risk farming practices, and (2) preparedness factors, such as a country's capacity to control outbreaks. This report describes (1) U.S. and international efforts to assess pandemic risk by country and prioritize countries for assistance and (2) steps that the United States and international partners have taken to improve the ability to forestall a pandemic. To address these objectives, we interviewed officials and analyzed data from U.S. agencies, international organizations, and nongovernmental experts. The U.S. and international agencies whose efforts we describe reviewed a draft of this report. In general, they concurred with our findings. Several provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate.