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Is Australia prepared for the next pandemic?

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Pieces of the plan are in place, but we must continue to strengthen preparedness research capacity

Infectious diseases continue to threaten global health security,1 despite decades of advances in hygiene, vaccination and antimicrobial therapies. Population growth, widespread international travel and trade, political instability and climate change have caused rapid changes in human populations, wildlife and agriculture, in turn increasing the risk of infection transmission within and between countries and from animal species.2 New human pathogens have emerged, and previously “controlled” diseases have re-emerged or expanded their range.2 In the past decade alone, the global community has experienced infection outbreaks of pandemic influenza, Ebola and Zika viruses and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Planning for an effective response to the next pandemic is complex and requires extensive engagement between public health experts, clinicians, diagnostic laboratory staff, general and at-risk communities and jurisdictional and federal agencies. An effective response also requires access to real-time data, management of uncertainty, clear and rapid communication, coordination and, importantly, strong leadership. Are all these pieces of the plan currently in place in Australia?

The 2009 influenza pandemic…