Within months of President Barack Obama taking the oath of office in January 2009, he was confronted by a novel strain of H1N1 influenza spreading throughout North America and then the world.  At the same time that the United States was mobilizing to respond to the first flu pandemic of the 21st century, the Obama administration was attempting to fill senior positions within key Federal agencies with qualified, knowledgeable individuals.

Although the United States is not currently facing a pandemic, this situation could change quickly and dramatically. China is currently experiencing its fifth and largest outbreak of Asian lineage avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (“Asian H7N9”). According to the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT), Asian H7N9 is the influenza strain with the greatest potential to cause a global pandemic. Based on the ten criteria measured by the IRAT, Asian H7N9 presents a moderate to high risk of developing the potential to be transmitted from person-to-person and having a severe public health impact.

In February, Bill Gates, the richest man in the world and a leading global health philanthropist, warned that the next pandemic could claim 30 million lives worldwide and cost the global economy $570 billion. Continue reading.