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      Reviewing the History of Pandemic Influenza: Understanding Patterns of Emergence and Transmission

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      pandemic, influenza, globalization, intervention

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          For centuries, novel strains of influenza have emerged to produce human pandemics, causing widespread illness, death, and disruption. There have been four influenza pandemics in the past hundred years. During this time, globalization processes, alongside advances in medicine and epidemiology, have altered the way these pandemics are experienced. Drawing on international case studies, this paper provides a review of the impact of past influenza pandemics, while examining the evolution of our understanding of, and response to, these viruses. This review argues that pandemic influenza is in part a consequence of human development, and highlights the importance of considering outbreaks within the context of shifting global landscapes. While progress in infectious disease prevention, control, and treatment has improved our ability to respond to such outbreaks, globalization processes relating to human behaviour, demographics, and mobility have increased the threat of pandemic emergence and accelerated global disease transmission. Preparedness planning must continue to evolve to keep pace with this heightened risk. Herein, we look to the past for insights on the pandemic experience, underlining both progress and persisting challenges. However, given the uncertain timing and severity of future pandemics, we emphasize the need for flexible policies capable of responding to change as such emergencies develop.

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          Most cited references 140

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          Global trends in emerging infectious diseases.

          Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a significant burden on global economies and public health. Their emergence is thought to be driven largely by socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, but no comparative study has explicitly analysed these linkages to understand global temporal and spatial patterns of EIDs. Here we analyse a database of 335 EID 'events' (origins of EIDs) between 1940 and 2004, and demonstrate non-random global patterns. EID events have risen significantly over time after controlling for reporting bias, with their peak incidence (in the 1980s) concomitant with the HIV pandemic. EID events are dominated by zoonoses (60.3% of EIDs): the majority of these (71.8%) originate in wildlife (for example, severe acute respiratory virus, Ebola virus), and are increasing significantly over time. We find that 54.3% of EID events are caused by bacteria or rickettsia, reflecting a large number of drug-resistant microbes in our database. Our results confirm that EID origins are significantly correlated with socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, and provide a basis for identifying regions where new EIDs are most likely to originate (emerging disease 'hotspots'). They also reveal a substantial risk of wildlife zoonotic and vector-borne EIDs originating at lower latitudes where reporting effort is low. We conclude that global resources to counter disease emergence are poorly allocated, with the majority of the scientific and surveillance effort focused on countries from where the next important EID is least likely to originate.
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            Origins and evolutionary genomics of the 2009 swine-origin H1N1 influenza A epidemic.

            In March and early April 2009, a new swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus (S-OIV) emerged in Mexico and the United States. During the first few weeks of surveillance, the virus spread worldwide to 30 countries (as of May 11) by human-to-human transmission, causing the World Health Organization to raise its pandemic alert to level 5 of 6. This virus has the potential to develop into the first influenza pandemic of the twenty-first century. Here we use evolutionary analysis to estimate the timescale of the origins and the early development of the S-OIV epidemic. We show that it was derived from several viruses circulating in swine, and that the initial transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the outbreak. A phylogenetic estimate of the gaps in genetic surveillance indicates a long period of unsampled ancestry before the S-OIV outbreak, suggesting that the reassortment of swine lineages may have occurred years before emergence in humans, and that the multiple genetic ancestry of S-OIV is not indicative of an artificial origin. Furthermore, the unsampled history of the epidemic means that the nature and location of the genetically closest swine viruses reveal little about the immediate origin of the epidemic, despite the fact that we included a panel of closely related and previously unpublished swine influenza isolates. Our results highlight the need for systematic surveillance of influenza in swine, and provide evidence that the mixing of new genetic elements in swine can result in the emergence of viruses with pandemic potential in humans.
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              Strategies for mitigating an influenza pandemic.

              Development of strategies for mitigating the severity of a new influenza pandemic is now a top global public health priority. Influenza prevention and containment strategies can be considered under the broad categories of antiviral, vaccine and non-pharmaceutical (case isolation, household quarantine, school or workplace closure, restrictions on travel) measures. Mathematical models are powerful tools for exploring this complex landscape of intervention strategies and quantifying the potential costs and benefits of different options. Here we use a large-scale epidemic simulation to examine intervention options should initial containment of a novel influenza outbreak fail, using Great Britain and the United States as examples. We find that border restrictions and/or internal travel restrictions are unlikely to delay spread by more than 2-3 weeks unless more than 99% effective. School closure during the peak of a pandemic can reduce peak attack rates by up to 40%, but has little impact on overall attack rates, whereas case isolation or household quarantine could have a significant impact, if feasible. Treatment of clinical cases can reduce transmission, but only if antivirals are given within a day of symptoms starting. Given enough drugs for 50% of the population, household-based prophylaxis coupled with reactive school closure could reduce clinical attack rates by 40-50%. More widespread prophylaxis would be even more logistically challenging but might reduce attack rates by over 75%. Vaccine stockpiled in advance of a pandemic could significantly reduce attack rates even if of low efficacy. Estimates of policy effectiveness will change if the characteristics of a future pandemic strain differ substantially from those seen in past pandemics.

                Author and article information

                McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, University of Ottawa, 850 Peter Morand Crescent, Ottawa, ON K1G 5Z3, Canada; dkrewski@
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: psaun076@ ; Tel.: +1-613-866-5801
                Role: Academic Editor
                06 December 2016
                December 2016
                : 5
                : 4
                © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (


                pandemic, intervention, globalization, influenza


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