The Ebola outbreak has grabbed the attention of the country if not the world in recent days, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is also concerned about a more mundane, but still potentially deadly problem: the flu. Thursday, the agency began seeking sources for “Medical Countermeasures for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response.” In laying out the case for HHS’s plans, the agency noted that the “public is at risk for a severe influenza pandemic,” and that such a pandemic could cost 60 million lives or more around the globe: The potential for a human influenza pandemic continues to be a public health concern. Four influenza pandemics occurred over the last century. In 2009, we completed the preparation and response to the most recent pandemic caused by the H1N1 virus. Sporadic infections of humans with avian influenza viruses with high mortality (H5N1, H7N9) suggest the public is at risk for a severe influenza pandemic. An outbreak of severe pandemic influenza could cause over 60 million deaths worldwide by some estimates. Currently, five vaccine manufacturers are under contract for the Medical Countermeasures for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response program with HHS until September 2015 when the contracts awarded in 2012 expire. More
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