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Experts review influenza pandemic preparedness guidance

Note for the media

With the onging threat of a global influenza pandemic demanding continued vigilance, 120 influenza and planning experts from WHO Member States, research institutions and UN agencies around the globe are meeting in Geneva this week to review the current WHO pandemic preparedness guidance. Key scientific and situational developments make the review particularly important. WHO will release the revised guidance later this year.

"New concepts and tools including the International Health Regulations 2005, the global pandemic influenza action plan, antiviral and H5N1 vaccine stockpiles, pandemic severity scale and a rapid containment protocol have emerged since the last revision in 2005," said Dr Keiji Fukuda, Coordinator of the WHO Global Influenza Programme. "Experience gained through dealing with H5N1 outbreaks, and through active preparedness by many countries makes this review a crucial exercise."

WHO first provided such guidance in 1999 and since then, influenza pandemic preparedness has become one of the central public health planning challenges. With the risk level of an influenza pandemic unchanged, maintaining appropriate focus on preparedness and ensuring that efforts contribute to broad public health capacity are ongoing challenges.

"One day we will face a pandemic but we don't know when," acknowledged Dr Fukuda. "So what can we do? We can take action to improve our ability to decrease the risk of harm from a pandemic. We hope to improve the guidance and the practical tools we give to Member States through our efforts this week."

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