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This paper describes the nature of pandemic influenza and highlights key challenges for responding to this disease threat. It explains how an influenza pandemic would differ from annual influenza outbreaks and examines how a pandemic virus could emerge. It also explores important issues involved in pandemic preparedness capabilities, including disease surveillance, vaccine production and distribution, antiviral stockpiling, health care system readiness, and public health containment measures. The national pandemic preparedness plan is briefly reviewed, and unresolved policy issues related to the plan’s implementation are identified.

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