There is broad agreement that a pandemic would not be solely a health issue, but rather a common challenge faced by many sectors and that high-level authorities must act to strengthen national capacity to respond to this type of health crisis. In the Americas, a series of workshops has brought together experts in communicable diseases, emergency preparedness and response, veterinary public health, communications, health services, and other fields. These experts have examined the threat of pandemic influenza, reviewed the status of national preparedness efforts and action plans, improved coordination across sectors to reduce risk and better respond when and if the need occurs. To date, four meetings have taken place in the Americas. As a result, all countries have a national pandemic influenza plan—at least in draft form—and many are already organizing activities to address existing priorities and gaps. Next will be the adaptation of the methodology for creating plans to meet the needs of large cities, small towns and rural areas.

Related to regionwide preparedness efforts for pandemic influenza, PAHO/WHO and national epidemiologists met in Panama in October to create an integrated team that can respond quickly to a public health emergency of international concern (including, but not limited to, pandemic influenza).  This team is a component of the PAHO/WHO Regional Health Emergency Response Team (see the April issue of this Newsletter).