Since we don’t know where or when a pandemic may originate, we have enhanced our surveillance network across the globe, but especially in east and southeast Asia, where we at HHS have people on the ground who are working with local researchers, clinicians, and governments. We are also in daily contact with the World Health Organization Secretariat in Geneva and its regional offices in Manila and New Delhi. We at HHS have experts on short- and long-term assignments to W.H.O. headquarters and the W.H.O. Country Office in Vietnam.

I've begun meeting with health ministers and ambassadors from affected countries, and soon I will begin to visit their countries. In May, I will also travel to the World Health Assembly, where pandemic influenza preparedness is on the agenda; I am convening a special meeting of health ministers from affected and donor countries to coordinate planning on influenza, followed by a technical meeting of experts the next day. Influenza will continue to be an important topic in all my discussions with my counterparts.

Needless to say, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for how important your work is. We have learned so much in recent years about how to assess and respond to flu outbreaks, but we also have much more work to do. I am glad that all of you are engaged in these research and public health activities, and glad that you’ve come together today to compare notes and help us reexamine and reset the direction of our collective efforts.

While pandemics have happened several times in the past, never before have we had all of the tools of today. Never before have we possessed the wealth of knowledge on the problem and the ability to prepare. The challenge is immense, but so is our will to protect and preserve.

The outcome of this conference will be extremely important and will help guide us all in our work toward improving our ability to prepare ourselves. I look forward to being able to present a brief report on this symposium to my fellow health ministers when we meet at the World Health assembly next month.

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