In addition to the great number of publications focused on the leading role of virus mutations and reassortment in the origin of pandemic influenza, general opinion emphasizes the victim side of the epidemic process. Based on the analysis and integration of relevant ecological, epidemiological, clinical, genetic and experimental data, the present article is focused on the evolution of ‘virus – victim’ ecological systems resulting in the formation of innate (i.e. genetic, constitutional) immunity in the involved species and populations. This kind of immunity functions today as the greatest natural barrier to the pandemic spread of influenza among humans and ecologically related kinds of animals. Global influenza pandemics can arise when the worldwide population contains at least a minimum number of people susceptible to a known or mutant influenza virus. Special attention is paid in this article to individual tests for the presence of this barrier, including the implications of specific findings for public health policy. Such tests could be based on in vitro observation of the action of relevant virus strains on primary cell cultures or on their cellular or molecular components extracted from individuals. The resources of the Human Genome Project should also be utilized.