Saturday, December 8, 2012
With flu season upon us already, and most state health departments issuing advisories warning about influenza, Americans are in for a long season.
In an interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Dec. 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases Director and Dr. Thomas Frieden, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Director discuss the role and state of public health in America with a strong emphasis on the current flu season.
How well is America prepared for the flu season?
Dr. Fauci says we are in the beginning of the 2012-13 flu season and we are seeing a “tick-up” earlier this year. Flu season generally kicks off during the late December to January months.
Fauci does say although we are off to an early start, the flu strain circulating (H3N2) is very well matched to the flu vaccine, in which 112 million doses have already been administered. In addition, this strain is not showing resistance to antiviral flu drugs like Tamiflu.
CDC Director Frieden also sounds optimistic on preparations for this flu season; however, he did express some concerns.
The vaccination rate of allied health care workers and nursing home workers are below 50 percent, becoming a risk both to themselves and to the patients they treat.
Pregnant woman and the flu is also an area of concern, Frieden states. Pregnant women who contract the flu can get very ill and even die from the viral illness.
Frieden stresses, “the single most important factor in determining if a pregnant woman gets vaccinated is whether her obstetrician offers the vaccine in his or her office.” If the OB doctor does offer it, Frieden says that there is a 75 percent that she will get the vaccine.
Making getting the flu vaccine easier is a key to getting the population vaccinated.
Fauci says that the likelihood of flu mutation or development of resistance to antivirals this year is small.
Frieden says that influenza, which can be mild most people, sends hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital annually and kills thousands. In fact, Frieden reports several deaths in children already.
“Anyone six months or older should get vaccinated”, says Frieden. In addition, children with special needs should receive treatment quickly.
Should parents be concerned giving the flu vaccine to their children?
Fauci unequivocally says no. “On the contrary, they should be encouraged to give their children the vaccine”.
He says the vaccine had decades of safety experience plus if you keep infections low among children, the elderly grandparents are less likely to contract the flu. The elderly are also particularly susceptible to the flu.
The flu vaccine typically takes roughly two weeks to induce a good immune response and in about a month excellent protection.
Fauci also states that it is a myth that people get sick from the flu shot. Typically what happens is people get the flu before the vaccine take effect or possibly its just the common cold.
Frieden says that the billion dollar question concerning the flu is, could there be a repeat of 1918 pandemic?
“Of all the infectious disease threats, I still think its still influenza that makes a most concerned because a severe pandemic is still possible”, he said.
A global warning system is in place just for this reason. Frieden says we have to be ready for something like this because if not, it’ll be very costly in terms of economics and lives.
Frieden and Fauci also discuss other areas of public health to include HIV/AIDS in the interview. To view the entire 1 hr. 20 min interview, click here.
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