Emerging Infectious Diseases 20-year Timeline, Influenza
Dr. David Morens and Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger remind us of the importance of the January 2006 Influenza issue and its relevance in 2015.
“Influenza is the only infectious disease to have continually emerged and re-emerged, for over a millennium, in completely new but always deadly forms. In 2005 one of medicine’s “holy grails” was discovered: a decade-long effort resulted in full genome sequencing of the virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic, the deadliest event in human history. At the same time, there was growing alarm that an H5N1 avian influenza virus might be evolving toward human adaptation and pandemic emergence, conceivably capable of causing a pandemic far deadlier than that of 1918. In 2005, accumulating knowledge about influenza was generating considerable concern even among experts.
In January 2006, Emerging Infectious Diseases published a special issue containing 23 manuscripts on many aspects of influenza, including virology, immunology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention, vaccinology, treatment, history, public policy, and the societal and cultural impact of influenza.
The authors of these influenza manuscripts included many of the world’s most highly regarded experts. Notably, the still-consequential 1976-1977 “swine flu affair” was addressed in reviews by some of the principal decision-makers of the time, including the late David J. Sencer (then CDC Director), the late Richard M. Krause (then NIAID Director), and the late Edwin D. Kilbourne, one of the country’s leading influenza experts. It would be the last time these three giants of American public health would come together to discuss the lessons of those events.
In retrospect, the January 2006 publication served as a status report on, and a springboard for, future scientific and public health efforts regarding influenza. Almost all of the issues raised then remain relevant today, in 2015, including understanding determinants of pandemic emergence, the importance of animal influenza epizootiology, the bases of influenza immunity, challenges in vaccine development, prevention issues, and public policy issues.”