On November 16, 2005 the Council on Foreign Relations held a day-long conference on the global threat of pandemic influenza, bringing together leaders in the public health, business, and nonprofit sectors to assess the planning and priorities for an emergency that could be as close as a year or as distant as decades away.
Sessions at the conference covered the current state of global efforts to contain and control the virus, the U.S. government’s role in preparing for a pandemic, the business community’s role, and scenarios for the world in the aftermath of a bird flu pandemic.
At least 132 people worldwide have contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus, sixty-eight fatally, according to the November 25 situation report of the World Health Organization. There have been only a few cases of suspected person to person transmission. The virus has a transmission rate of nearly zero percent and a mortality rate of more than 50 percent. How and whether those rates change as the virus mutates over time will determine much of the impact of a potential H5N1 pandemic on the human population. While international attention is currently focused on the spread of H5N1, it is not assured that this will be the virus that causes the next influenza pandemic.