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January 17, 1996

Cooperation Between Government and Industry in Combating a Perceived Emerging Pandemic: The 1976 Swine Influenza Vaccination Program

Author Affiliations

From the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research, Merck Research Laboratories, West Point, Pa.

JAMA. 1996;275(3):241-243. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530270081036

Influenza virus is the paradigm1 for dealing with emerging and reemerging infections throughout the world. The disease can be prevented by vaccination if the vaccine composition is immunologically relevant to the virus causing the epidemic or pandemic.

A swine influenza outbreak occurred at Fort Dix, NJ, in early February 19762-4 (Table 1). Type A influenza virus of swine zoonotic origin occasionally infects humans, but for the first time recorded, there was significant person-to-person spread in the outbreak. The unexpected spread was likely related to stress and the housing of military recruits in the confined space of barracks during their basic training.

The question was whether this episode might predict a worldwide pandemic of influenza, like that of 1918-1919, in which its three waves killed 600 000 persons in the United States and was estimated to have cost approximately $100 billion. The 1918-1919 pandemic was caused by a human

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