There have been three influenza pandemics since the 1900s, of which the 1919–1919 flu pandemic had the highest mortality rates. The influenza virus infects both humans and birds, and mutates using two mechanisms: antigenic drift and antigenic shift. Currently, the H5N1 avian flu virus is limited to outbreaks among poultry and persons in direct contact to infected poultry, but the mortality rate among infected humans is high. Avian influenza (AI) is endemic in Asia as a result of unregulated poultry rearing in rural areas. Such birds often live in close proximity to humans and this increases the chance of genetic re-assortment between avian and human influenza viruses which may produce a mutant strain that is easily transmitted between humans. Once this happens, a global pandemic is likely. Unlike SARS, a person with influenza infection is contagious before the onset of case-defining symptoms which limits the effectiveness of case isolation as a control strategy. Researchers have shown that carefully orchestrated of public health measures could potentially limit the spread of an AI pandemic if implemented soon after the first cases appear. To successfully contain and control an AI pandemic, both national and global strategies are needed. National strategies include source surveillance and control, adequate stockpiles of anti-viral agents, timely production of flu vaccines and healthcare system readiness. Global strategies such as early integrated response, curbing the disease outbreak at source, utilization of global resources, continuing research and open communication are also critical.