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AAI believes that the threat of pandemic influenza requires the government to devote more funding to identifying new pathogens, understanding the immune response, and developing vaccines.
Seasonal influenza and pandemics
Seasonal influenza leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and about 36,000 deaths nationwide in an average year. A worldwide influenza pandemic could occur at any time. A pandemic as serious as the one that occurred in 1918 could result in the illness of almost 90 million Americans and the death of more than 2 million, at a projected cost of $683 billion.1 While research scientists and public health professionals must, of course, respond to emergent threats (such as the current concern related to the H1/N1 flu virus), AAI believes that the best preparation for a pandemic is to focus on basic research to combat seasonal flu, including building capacity, pursuing new production methods (cell based), and seeking optimized flu vaccines and delivery methods.
1A report issued by Trust for America's Health ("Pandemic Flu and the Potential for U.S. Economic Recession") predicts that a severe pandemic flu outbreak could result in the second worst recession in the United States since World War II, resulting in a drop in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product of over 5.5%.
*Source: Testimony of William R. Green, Ph.D., The American Association of Immunologists, Submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Regarding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Budget for the National Institutes of Health – May 1, 2009 (p. 4)