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July 7, 1999

New Options for Prevention and Control of Influenza

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 1999;282(1):75-77. doi:10.1001/jama.282.1.75

Influenza virus infections are the most prevalent cause of medically attended acute respiratory illness and rank among the principal causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.1 During the past 25 years, excess rates of hospitalization in the United States during influenza season have reached as high as 270 per 100,000, with an average of 20,000 associated deaths and economic losses in the range of $3 billion to $5 billion annually.2,3 While the effects of influenza on the elderly and persons of any age with chronic underlying conditions are well known,13 mounting evidence suggests that the medical, social, and economic consequences of influenza for other populations may be substantially underestimated.24 Also looming in the future is the next pandemic of influenza, which, depending on the virulence and penetrance of infection, could result in as many as 200,000 excess deaths and economic losses in excess of $160 billion in the United States.5,6 Given its enormous current and future potential as a medical, public health, and economic threat, it should come as no surprise that influenza was among the most highly ranked targets for further vaccine development in a study recently completed by the Institute of Medicine.7

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