It’s flu season in the United States, and while flu causes more deaths and hospitalizations than any other vaccine-preventable disease in the country, most people don’t take it seriously.
Last year in the US alone, an estimated 80,000 people died of the flu and its complications. Globally, according to the World Health Organization, as many as 650,000 people can die each year from illnesses linked to influenza.
Flu was front and center at a symposium that The Task Force hosted last month. It is the first in a series of public education programs focused on global health that The Task Force plans to hold in partnership with the Georgia Global Health Alliance.
According to Joe Bresee, MD, who directs The Task Force’s Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI) program, a flu shot is still the best way for people to avoid getting the flu.
To mitigate the potentially devastating impact of flu, PIVI has been working with low- and middle-income countries to create and implement sustainable, seasonal flu vaccine programs. In addition to protecting peoples’ health, an important goal of the program is to help countries establish systems that can be activated in the event of a pandemic. Since 2014, PIVI has partnered with 16 countries to provide flu vaccines and/or technical assistance – most recently working with Cote d’Ivoire, Bhutan, Macedonia, Tunisia and Uganda.
At the symposium, deputy director of CDC’s Influenza Coordination Unit, Lisa Koonin, DrPH, MPH, delivered the keynote address, which was followed by a panel discussion on flu and pandemic preparedness where experts provided a spectrum of perspectives from global to local.
Panelists were Ann Moen, chief, World Health Organization’s Influenza Preparedness & Response Unit; Silvia Bino, MD, head, Albania Institute of Public Health’s Control of Infectious Diseases and Immunization department; Phyllis Frosst, PhD, global director, Health Policy, Pandemic Response Solutions, Seqirus; and Sandra Ford, MD, district health director and chief executive officer, DeKalb County Board of Health.
Watch the video to see what these experts had to say about the likelihood of a pandemic, and what people can do to prepare for the upcoming flu season.