The World Health Organization on Monday launched a strategy to protect people worldwide over the next decade against the threat of influenza, warning that new pandemics are “inevitable”.
Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, affect around one billion people and kill hundreds of thousands annually, according to WHO, which describes it as one of the world’s greatest public health challenges.
WHO’s new strategy, for 2019 through 2030, aims to prevent seasonal influenza, control the virus’s spread from animals to humans and prepare for the next pandemic, WHO said.
The new strategy called for every country to strengthen routine health programmes and to develop tailor-made influenza programmes that strengthen disease surveillance, response, prevention, control, and preparedness.
WHO recommends annual flu vaccines as the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease, especially for healthcare workers and people at higher risk of influenza complications.
It also called for the development of more effective and more accessible vaccines and antiviral treatments.
Due to its mutating strains, vaccine formulas must be regularly updated and only offer limited protection currently.
But Martin Friede, WHO’s vaccines coordinator, urged broader use of seasonal vaccines, which not only protect vulnerable populations but also help prepare countries to rapidly deploy vaccines in the case of a pandemic. “In a perfect world, everyone would be vaccinated.”
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