PAN­DEMIC PO­TEN­TIAL

BioSpectrum (Asia) - - Bio Analysis -

In­fluenza pan­demics (out­breaks that af­fect a large pro­por­tion of the world due to a novel virus) are un­pre­dictable but re­cur­ring events that can have health, eco­nomic and so­cial con­se­quences world­wide. An in­fluenza pan­demic oc­curs when key fac­tors con­verge: an avian or zoonotic in­fluenza virus emerges with the abil­ity to cause sus­tained hu­manto-hu­man trans­mis­sion, and the hu­man pop­u­la­tion has lit­tle to no im­mu­nity against the virus. With the growth of global trade and travel, a lo­cal­ized epi­demic can trans­form into a pan­demic rapidly, with lit­tle time to pre­pare a pub­lic health re­sponse.

On­go­ing circulation of some avian in­fluenza sub­types in poul­try, such as A(H5) or A(H7N9) viruses, are of pub­lic health con­cern as these viruses com­monly cause se­vere dis­ease in hu­mans and the viruses have the po­ten­tial to mu­tate to be­come more trans­mis­si­ble be­tween hu­mans. To date, although hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion of these viruses is thought to have oc­curred in some rare in­stances when there had been very close and pro­longed con­tact be­tween a very sick pa­tient and care­givers such as fam­ily mem­bers, there has been no sus­tained hu­manto-hu­man trans­mis­sion. If these viruses adapt or ac­quire cer­tain genes from hu­man viruses, they could trig­ger a pan­demic.

Whether cur­rently-cir­cu­lat­ing avian and other zoonotic in­fluenza viruses will re­sult in a fu­ture pan­demic is un­known. How­ever, the di­ver­sity of avian and other zoonotic in­fluenza viruses that have caused hu­man in­fec­tions ne­ces­si­tates on­go­ing sur­veil­lance in both an­i­mal and hu­man pop­u­la­tions, de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ev­ery hu­man in­fec­tion and risk-based pan­demic plan­ning.

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