The need to prepare for an influenza pandemic has not yet sunk in, partly because disaster has not yet struck. But that good news could turn into very bad news if it leads to slacking off on necessary preparations today: although no one can predict when or how, a pandemic will occur for sure, and it will have implications far beyond its toll on human health.
Swine flu has already shaken markets. While the scope of the current outbreak remains unknown, experts say a severe pandemic could drive productivity losses, dampen trade, and lower product demand at a time of preexisting economic frailty.
Recent discoveries related to avian flu could help control a possible future pandemic, but even as the global community and individual countries develop plans to combat the virus, experts say more work needs to be done.
The deadly H5N1 strain of the avian flu virus has now crept well into Europe—infecting birds in Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, and Denmark—and now also threatens Africa. Experts are at a loss over how to best tackle what could be an imminent global pandemic.
Without a more transparent international research and information-sharing system, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) could spread far beyond the bounds of the region for which it is named, write Laurie Garrett and Maxine Builder.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.