As the World Health Organization regularly reminds us, neither the timing nor the severity of the next influenza pandemic can be predicted. So, when avian influenza A(H5N1) virus emerged and fatal human cases were detected in a number of countries from 2003 onwards, pandemic planning took centrestage. At that time, those tasked with writing and implementing pandemic plans had no easy reference or experience to draw upon as the most recent pandemic had occurred 35 years earlier, in 1968, when technologies such as antiviral drugs, split and subunit vaccine preparations and computer-aided disease surveillance systems for outbreak detection did not exist. This made the first edition of Van-Tam and Sellwood’s book Pandemic influenza, published in April 2009, a useful resource. The book brought together leading experts to summarise the epidemiology, virology and clinical aspects of influenza as well as public health surveillance, emergency response and risk aspects of pandemic preparedness.
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