The International Influenza Education Panel Urges Change
7 December 1998: The newly formed International Influenza Education Panel, a group of eminent experts in the field of influenza infection, believes the time has come to take stock of the way this debilitating, often life-threatening, infection is perceived and managed across the world.
The Panel has come together to campaign for improved prevention strategies and treatment, which are consistent around the globe.
Why the need for change?
It is estimated that influenza affects 10-15 per cent of the world population with annual outbreaks causing substantial illness and even death.
The influenza pandemic of 1918 is said to have killed over 20 million people worldwide - more than the number killed in the First World War. In more recent years, deaths from influenza have not reached this level, but nevertheless large numbers of people can and do die from the consequences of the infection.
There is widespread misunderstanding about influenza and the term is often incorrectly used to describe a nasty cold, other influenza-like illness, or stomach upsets which occur in the winter months. This leads to confusion surrounding influenza (types A and B), which can lead to misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, prolonged illness and severe secondary infection or even death in "at risk" individuals.
In addition, when those who are otherwise healthy are infected, influenza and influenza-like illness can be a major problem for businesses across the world. For instance, in the UK, approximately 150 million working days are lost each year - the equivalent of more than a week per person. This is estimated to cost the British economy over six and three quarter billion pounds a year.
Due to the potentially serious nature of influenza, the International Influenza Education Panel believes that it is extremely important to distinguish between influenza and other respiratory infections.