In February 1957, the Asian influenza pandemic was first identified in the Far East. Immunity to this strain was rare in people less than 65 years of age, and a pandemic was predicted. In preparation, vaccine production began in late May 1957, and health officials increased surveillance for flu outbreaks.
Unlike the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, the 1957 pandemic virus was quickly identified, due to advances in scientific technology. Vaccine was available in limited supply by August 1957. The virus came to the U.S. quietly, with a series of small outbreaks over the summer of 1957. When U.S. children went back to school in the fall, they spread the disease in classrooms and brought it home to their families. Infection rates were highest among school children, young adults, and pregnant women in October 1957. Most influenza-and pneumonia-related deaths occurred between September 1957 and March 1958. The elderly had the highest rates of death.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has unveiled the draft Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan, which outlines a coordinated national strategy to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic.