Influenza: The Ongoing Battle to Provide Effective Prevention and Treatment

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The past year brought growing concerns about a new strain of influenza virus known as influenza A(H5NI), which caused unsuspected deaths in China. In January of 1998, an organized team of experts from the World Health Organization were invited by the Chinese government to collaborate with national health authorities to review ongoing influenza surveillance activities.

Nearly 40% of all influenza cases processed at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the 1997-98 flu season have been the Type A Sydney influenza virus. Because the Type A Sydney strain was discovered too late in the season, this season’s influenza vaccine formulation did not fully protect against the Type A Sydney virus.

Alternative modes of administration for the influenza vaccine, such as Aviron’s intranasal formulation, and novel antiviral agents designed to significantly reduce the length of time a patient experiences flu symptoms are currently progressing through clinical trials.

This article discusses the current efforts being made by the global community to monitor and control the spread of influenza. Some of the approaches being taken by the pharmaceutical industry to provide improved preventative and therapeutic regimens are also reviewed.

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