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Preparation for a pandemic: Influenza A H1N1

This feature, published by The Lancet, discusses the world's capacity to cope with a A(H1N1) influenza, or 'swine flu', pandemic. The author outlines some of the progress made in pandemic preparedness since severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and H5N1 influenza (bird flu) hit the world a few years ago, but points out that many countries' plans are flawed.

Many countries in the Asia–Pacific focus on early containment of disease and "social distancing", a strategy particularly important for developing countries as many lack access to antiviral drugs and vaccines. But, on the other hand, countries that focus on surveillance end up with problems if the virus becomes pandemic.

Scientists are struggling to predict what the likely health impact of a pandemic will be because influenza viruses can become more dangerous as they mutate. And epidemiologists are trying to assess which groups of people are most vulnerable and why some people have more severe symptoms than others.

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