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WHO: World Remains Volatile Despite Influenza Breakthroughs

FILE - A health worker uses an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of a student for the Influenza A (H1N1) awareness at a university in Manila.

The world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than ever before, but it remains highly vulnerable to possible outbreaks, the World Health Organization [WHO] said Friday.

“Nothing about influenza is predictable, including where the next pandemic might emerge and which virus might be responsible,” the United Nations health agency said in a seven-page report on influenza or flu as it is commonly called.

A variety of flu viruses are co-circulating and exchanging genetic material between animals and humans. Such trends must be closely monitored, WHO warned.

During 2014, the WHO’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System tested more than 1.9 million clinical specimens at 142 laboratories in 112 countries. “By keeping a close watch over the volatile world of influenza viruses, these laboratories operate as a sensitive early warning system for the detection of viruses with pandemic potential,” the report said.

However, “more research and development is needed to develop better vaccines and shorten the production time,” because many lives would be lost in the three to four months needed to produce vaccines.

It is in the best interests of every county to prepare, the World Health Organization advises governments, since “an influenza pandemic is the most global of infectious disease events currently known.”