Avian influenza poses a substantial risk to the human population because it is likely that at some, unpredictable, point in the future a strain of influenza will emerge that transmits easily between humans.
If this occurs, the aviation community may be asked to take action in order to assist in limiting its spread.
Further, aviation will undoubtedly be detrimentally affected as passengers choose to avoid flying to areas where there is a perceived increased risk of disease.
It is therefore necessary to plan for such an event, in order to mitigate the effects of a human outbreak.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is coordinating an international effort to bring together expertise from such organizations as the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI) in order to develop guidelines for States that will assist in their preparedness planning.
A meeting was held in Singapore during February 2006 in which States from Asia were invited to discuss with specialists from around the world how a global preparedness plan for aviation can be developed.
Draft guidelines were agreed in Singapore and these are currently undergoing a review process, involving all ICAO member States. The guidelines are generic, in that they are applicable to many communicable diseases, not only influenza. They will continue to be modified over time as more information is gained on preparedness planning and on the behaviour of relevant infectious agents.
It is envisaged that the guidelines will form part of the World Health Organization's preparedness plan for influenza.