The 2017/2018 influenza season is the worst in recent history.
New Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar was recently briefed on preparedness and response efforts in place to combat the pandemic influenza that is running rampant across the United States, according to a press release.
The briefing included several HHS officials who are directly involved with flu preparedness and response efforts, 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 flu-related actions of the HHS since being confirmed as secretary of the agency. Azar noted that he has worked closely with public health leaders during his previous appointment in the HHS, according to the release.
The agency has been monitoring and responding to the 2017/2018 flu season, which is especially severe and has resulted in numerous hospitalizations and deaths.
The agency reported that hospitalizations for this flu season have reached the highest levels since it 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. Dr Kadlec discussed ongoing private sector efforts to produce a greater volume and pandemic flu vaccine that has greater efficacy, according to the release.
Azar and the HHS leaders said that they will continue to collaborate to bolster prevention efforts and address issues that may arise, according to the release.