, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1-6
Date: 23 Aug 2012

Pandemic Influenza — Prevention and Treatment

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Influenza is a contagious respiratory tract infection caused by one of three influenza viruses: A, B and C. Influenza C causes mild infections in infants and young children, which may confer life-long immunity since cases in adults are rare and usually asymptomatic, whilst influenza A and B cause seasonal epidemics in people of all ages. Influenza B and C are virtually restricted to humans and, although both have been isolated from other mammals, there does not seem to be a natural animal reservoir of infection.[1] In contrast, influenza A can infect a range of avian and mammalian hosts, the key animal reservoir being migrating waterfowl. Although both A and B viruses can be responsible for the annual winter epidemics of influenza (‘seasonal flu’) that occur around the world, only influenza A has the potential to give rise to global pandemic disease.[2]

Influenza viruses possess two surface membrane glycoproteins, haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), capable of eliciting antibody