Looking to the Future
Intertwined Perceptions: Culture, History, and Science
Influenza viruses are thought to have circulated globally for thousands of years, causing annual epidemics and occasional pandemics. Since the 1918 emergence of an H1N1 virus triggered the most severe influenza pandemic in recent history, many cultural, historic, and scientific perceptions of influenza have been linked to that past.
Recollections of past influenza outbreaks create a global phenomenon of shared memories. These perceptions have intersected with the ever-increasing knowledge of influenza diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and control. Past experiences of influenza outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics, advances in medicine and public health science, as well as continued development of public health agencies, entwine to create a culture surrounding influenza viruses that exists worldwide.
We can safely predict that influenza viruses will remain a public health concern for the foreseeable future. As long as influenza viruses create annual public health challenges and continued pandemic threats, our perceptions of influenza viruses and the public health measures to prevent and control them will evolve, growing in complexity with each reoccurrence.