WASHINGTON—A deadly influenza outbreak may be on the horizon. Since 1997, a strain of avian flu known as H5N1 has spread rapidly among birds in East Asia, reaching as far north as Siberia. If this strain, which has killed 55 percent of its known human victims, mutates into a virus easily transmitted by people, the resulting pandemic could kill millions and would have staggering global social and economic impacts. On Monday, September 19, a panel will discuss the costs and consequences of an avian flu outbreak at the first meeting sponsored by the Wilson Center's new Global Health Initiative, from noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Wilson Center's 6th Floor Flom Auditorium. Watch the webcast of the event.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has launched the Global Health Initiative to provide a forum for an interdisciplinary examination of health challenges facing the United States and the world. Delving into such topics as AIDS orphans, bioterrorism, child mortality, and gene therapy, the initiative seeks to promote dialogue about pressing health issues among the foreign policy community. The initiative will focus on four key themes: health's impact on development, the role of national and international institutions in global health policy, infectious diseases, and emerging health technology.

"It is our hope that such a forum would ultimately increase understanding of health issues and inspire policy decisions that will improve the lives of citizens around the world," said Wilson Center President and Director Lee Hamilton.

The Initiative's first event, Emerging Pandemic: Costs and Consequences of an Avian Influenza Outbreak will feature panelists Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and associate director of the Department of Homeland Security's National Center for Food Protection and Defense; and Helen Branswell, a medical writer for the Canadian Press Agency. Osterholm will focus on gaps and best practices for addressing a flu crisis in the United States and in global policymaking. Branswell, who has been covering the avian flu epidemic for the last 18 months, will draw on her experience covering the SARS virus to explore the potential impacts of an avian flu outbreak in the United States and Canada. The Wilson Center plans to host additional meetings on this topic in collaboration with Cornell University.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.