Alex Azar Discusses Flu Epidemic in Briefing with HHS Officials

FEBRUARY 09, 2018
Laurie Toich, Associate Editor
Amid one of the worst flu seasons in recent history, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar received a briefing on preparedness and response efforts in place to combat the influenza that is running rampant across the United States, according to a press release. 

The briefing included a number of HHS officials who are directly involved with flu preparedness and response, such as Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat MD, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, MD.

In the meeting, Azar discussed how he has been able to oversee the HHS’ flu-related actions since being confirmed secretary of the HHS. He noted that he has worked closely with public health leaders during his previous appointment in the HHS, according to the release.

The HHS has been monitoring and responding to the 2017/2018 flu season, which has been especially severe and resulted in numerous hospitalizations and deaths.

The agency reported that hospitalizations for this flu season have reached the highest levels since they began tracking these incidences in 2010, according to the release. The HHS also highlighted that more regions than usual are experiencing high levels of flu activity.

The HHS is planning to continue efforts to prepare for and combat outbreaks of pandemic flu strains, including H7N9, according to the briefing.

During the meeting, Dr Schuchat presented the status of seasonal flu in the United States and pandemic flu around the world, referencing the rate of activity, hospitalizations, and mortality. CDC efforts to monitor and arrange supplies of the flu vaccine and antivirals were also discussed, according to the release.

Dr Schuchat said that the efficacy of this year’s flu vaccine will be released soon.

Dr Fauci briefed attendees on the NIAID’s research efforts to develop a more effective flu vaccine, including a universal candidate, while Dr Kadlec discussed private sector efforts in progress to produce a greater volume and pandemic flu vaccine that has greater efficacy, according to the release.

Azar and the HHS leaders concluded that they will continue to collaborate to bolster prevention efforts and address issues that may arise.

 

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