"Substantial epidemiological research and medical evidence in recent years have highlighted the necessity of planning to safeguard the American public against the threat of pandemic influenza. Although no new strain of influenza virus has yet achieved the capacity for easy transmission between humans, experts are concerned that one will in the near future. The morbidity and mortality that could occur as a result of this development is not precisely predictable, but the impact would be felt by all human populations around the world. Of particular concern is an influenza A subtype known as H5N1 or avian flu. Now spreading through bird populations across Asia and recently reaching into Europe, this new influenza strain has infected domesticated birds like ducks and chickens as well as long-range migratory birds. In 1997, the first recorded outbreak among people took place in Hong Kong. Avian flu struck again in late 2003 and has infected 184 people since then. Currently, avian flu is primarily an animal disease. Unless people come into direct, sustained contact with infected birds, it is unlikely they will contract the disease. The American College of Physicians (ACP) supports the U.S. Government's foresight in developing a national strategic response plan and the efforts of state and local leadership in addressing this threat to public health. A comprehensive health care response to this threat is necessary to save lives, decrease illness, and avoid disruption to the economy."