Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs?

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.org

Maybe the saying is true: you don’t know what you had until it is gone. For the families in this episode, the absence of public health laboratories turned their worlds upside down and negatively impacted both the present and future. These families represent us all and highlight the vulnerabilities that would exist if there were no public health laboratories working continuously to keep our communities and populations safe.

This is the second episode in the series produced by members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10.

You can listen to our show via the player embedded below or on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe to Lab Culture so you never miss an episode.

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgEmerging Infectious Disease Response:

APHL’s Infectious Disease Program

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Interviewer: Kate Wainwright, PhD, D(ABMM), HCLD (ABB), MPH, MSN, RN, deputy director, Public Health Protection and Laboratory Services, Indiana State Department of Health

Expert: Peter Shult, PhD, director, Communicable Disease Division; associate director, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgNewborn Screening:

APHL’s Newborn Screening Program

NewSTEPs

Baby’s First Test

Interviewer: Josh Rowland, MBA, MT(ASCP), manager, Training and Workforce Development, Association of Public Health Laboratories

Expert: Miriam Schachter, PhD, research scientist 3, New Jersey Department of Health, Newborn Screening Laboratory

 

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgFoodborne Illness:

APHL’s Food Safety Program

5 Things You Didn’t Know (but Need to Know) About Listeria

Interviewer: Samir Patel, PhD, FCCM, (D)ABMM, clinical microbiologist, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Expert: Vanessa Allen, MD, MPH, medical microbiologist, chief of microbiology, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada

 

Narrator:  Erin Bowles, B.S., MT(ASCP), Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network coordinator and co-biosafety officer, Communicable Disease Division, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contributor: Emily Travanty, PhD, scientific director, Laboratory Services Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Special thanks to Jim Hermanson at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for his help in recording this episode.

The post Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Why It Matters 100 Years Later

Group photo of Red Cross nurses in Boston wearing personal protective equipment.

100 years ago, an influenza (flu) pandemic swept the globe, infecting an estimated one-third of the world’s population and killing at least 50 million people. The pandemic’s death tollAmerican soldiers returning home on the Agamemnon, Hoboken, New Jersey was greater than the total number of military and civilian deaths from World War I, which was happening simultaneously.  At the time, scientists had not yet discovered flu viruses, but we know today that the 1918 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H1N1) virus. The pandemic is commonly believed to have occurred in three waves. Unusual flu-like activity was first identified in U.S. military personnel during the spring of 1918. Flu spread rapidly in military barracks where men shared close quarters. The second wave occurred during the fall of 1918 and was the most severe. A third wave of illness occurred during the winter and spring of 1919.

Here are 5 things you should know about the 1918 pandemic and why it matters 100 years later.

1. The 1918 Flu Virus Spread Quickly

500 million people were estimated to have been infected by the 1918 H1N1 flu virus. At least 50 million people were killed around the world including an estimated 675,000 Americans. In fact, the 1918 pandemic actually caused the average life expectancy in the United States to drop by about 12 years for both men and women.Flu patients in Iowa

In 1918, many people got very sick, very quickly. In March of that year, outbreaks of flu-like illness were first detected in the United States. More than 100 soldiers at Camp Funston in Fort Riley Kansas became ill with flu. Within a week, the number of flu cases quintupled. There were reports of some people dying within 24 hours or less. 1918 flu illness often progressed to organ failure and pneumonia, with pneumonia the cause of death for most of those who died.  Young adults were hit hard. The average age of those who died during the pandemic was 28 years old.

2. No Prevention and No Treatment for the 1918 Pandemic Virus

In 1918, as scientists had not yet discovered flu viruses, there were no laboratory tests to detect, or characterize these viruses. There were no vaccines to help prevent flu infection, noPolicemen patrol the streets in masks in Seattle to ensure public safety. antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with flu infections. Available tools to control the spread of flu were largely limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI’s) such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limits on public gatherings, which were used in many cities. The science behind these was very young, and applied inconsistently. City residents were advised to avoid crowds, and instructed to pay particular attention to personal hygiene. In some cities, dance halls were closed. Some streetcar conductors were ordered to keep the windows of their cars open in all but rainy weather. Some municipalities moved court cases outside. Many physicians and nurses were instructed to wear gauze masks when with flu patients.

3. Illness Overburdened the Health Care System

An estimated 195,000 Americans died during October alone. In the fall of 1918, the United States experienced a severe shortage of professional nurses during the flu pandemic because large numbers of them were deployed to military camps in the United States and abroad.A black-and-white advertisement for the Chicago School of Nursing. This shortage was made worse by the failure to use trained African American nurses. The Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross issued an urgent call for volunteers to help nurse the ill. Philadelphia was hit hard by the pandemic with more than 500 corpses awaiting burial, some for more than a week. Many parts of the U.S. had been drained of physicians and nurses due to calls for military service, so there was a shortage of medical personnel to meet the civilian demand for health care during the 1918 flu pandemic. In Massachusetts, for example, Governor McCall asked every able-bodied person across the state with medical training to offer their aid in fighting the outbreak.

As the numbers of sick rose, the Red Cross put out desperate calls for trained nurses as well as untrained volunteers to help at emergency centers. In October of 1918, Congress approved a $1 million budget for the U. S. Public Health Service to recruit 1,000 medical doctors and more than 700 registered nurses.

At one point in Chicago, physicians were reporting a staggering number of new cases, reaching as high as 1,200 people each day. This in turn intensified the shortage of doctors and nurses.  Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.

4. Major Advancements in Flu Prevention and Treatment since 1918

The science of influenza has come a long way in 100 years!A man dress in personal protective equipment in a laboratory. Developments since the 1918 pandemic include vaccines to help prevent flu, antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia, and a global influenza surveillance system with 114 World Health Organization member states that constantly monitors flu activity. There also is a much better understanding of non-pharmaceutical interventions–such as social distancing, respiratory and cough etiquette and hand hygiene–and how these measures help slow the spread of flu.

There is still much work to do to improve U.S. and global readiness for the next flu pandemic. More effective vaccines and antiviral drugs are needed in addition to better surveillance of influenza viruses in birds and pigs. CDC also is working to minimize the impact of future flu pandemics by supporting research that can enhance the use of community mitigation measures (i.e., temporarily closing schools, modifying, postponing, or canceling large public events, and creating physical distance between people in settings where they commonly come in contact with one another). These non-pharmaceutical interventions continue to be an integral component of efforts to control the spread of flu, and in the absence of flu vaccine, would be the first line of defense in a pandemic.

5. Risk of a Flu Pandemic is Ever-Present, but CDC is on the Frontlines Preparing to Protect Americans

Four pandemics have occurred in the past century: 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009. The 1918 pandemic was the worst of them. But the threat of a future flu pandemic remains. A pandemic flu virus could emerge anywhere and spread globally.A crowd of people with the Washington Monument in the distance.

CDC works tirelessly to protect Americans and the global community from the threat of a future flu pandemic. CDC works with domestic and global public health and animal health partners to monitor human and animal influenza viruses. This helps CDC know what viruses are spreading, where they are spreading, and what kind of illnesses they are causing. CDC also develops and distributes tests and materials to support influenza testing at state, local, territorial, and international laboratories so they can detect and characterize influenza viruses.  In addition, CDC assists global and domestic experts in selecting candidate viruses to include in each year’s seasonal flu vaccine and guides prioritization of pandemic vaccine development. CDC routinely develops vaccine viruses used by manufacturers to make flu vaccines. CDC also supports state and local governments in preparing for the next flu pandemic, including planning and leading pandemic exercises across all levels of government. An effective response will diminish the potential for a repeat of the widespread devastation of the 1918 pandemic.

Visit CDC’s 1918 commemoration website for more information on the 1918 pandemic and CDC’s pandemic flu preparedness work.

New Lab Matters: 100 Years of Influenza

New Lab Matters: 100 Years of Influenza | www.APHLblog.org

In 1918, no one even knew for sure that influenza was a viral disease; but then, the field of public health laboratory practice was still in its infancy. One hundred years later, public health is in a much better place, but critical preparedness gaps still persist. As our feature article shows, public health laboratories are working to keep their communities safe, through often difficult funding circumstances.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

Subscribe and get Lab Matters delivered to your inbox, or read Lab Matters on your mobile device.

 

Key words: APHL, public health, laboratory, laboratory testing, public health laboratory, laboratory assessment, Measles, bioinformatics, parvo, PFAS, chemical testing

The post New Lab Matters: 100 Years of Influenza appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

6 Things You Need to Know About This Flu Season

Sick boy lying in bed having his temperature taken with a thermometer.

Seasonal flu activity has been intense this season.  As of February 16, 2018 most of the United States continues to experience intense and widespread flu activity, with record-breaking levels of influenza-like-illness and hospitalization rates recorded. While H3N2 viruses are still most common, there is an increasing number of influenza B viruses being detected. It’s not uncommon for second waves of B virus activity to occur during a flu season. It’s likely that flu activity will continue for several more weeks.

Here are some important things to know right now to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu:

1.  What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes onIf you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. These include: In children • Fast breathing or trouble breathing • Bluish skin color • Not drinking enough fluids • Not waking up or not interacting • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough • Fever with a rash; In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs: • Being unable to eat • Has trouble breathing • Has no tears when crying • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal; In adults • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen • Sudden dizziness • Confusion • Severe or persistent vomiting • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough. suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

2.  What do I do if I get sick?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.

CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.

3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?

No!  As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot.  Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don’t work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.

4.  Why should I get a flu shot?

In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.

5.  Does the flu shot work?

Vaccine effectiveness data for this season are not available yet, but we know that flu vaccines do not work as well against H3N2 viruses, which are predominant so far this season.

6.  What else can I do to protect myself from flu?

Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people.  If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).

Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:

  • Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Four Health and Safety Tips for Mass Gatherings

Berlin, Germany - April 5, 2015: People are watching a shop on the amphitheater's terrace at Mauerpark Berlin. The Wall Park is a park in Berlin. Its name dates back to the Berlin Wall , built in 1961 , the border between the then districts of Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding formed at this point.

There is strength in numbers – both in public health and in public safety. The more people who take action to protect themselves, the better prepared a community is for an emergency.

Communities take different forms. At a mass gathering like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or in a public place like the airport, the community includes people you do not know, but whose actions could help prevent a catastrophe or save your life. Here are four things you can do to prepare yourself and protect others when traveling to, and attending, a mass gathering event.

Speech bubble with the words "If you see something, say something."“If You See Something, Say Something®”

Public health and safety are the shared responsibilities of the whole community. Everyone has to play their part to keep our neighborhoods, communities, and the nation safe.

If You See Something, Say Something®” is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement. In other words, if you see something you know should not be there or observe behavior that does not seem quite right, say something.

The “If You See Something, Say Something®” campaign encourages people to follow their intuition and report suspicious activity, but leave it to law enforcement to decide whether an observed activity or behavior merits investigation. To report suspicious activity, contact local law enforcement, and describe in as much detail as possible what you saw, including:

  • Who or what you saw;What is considered suspicious activity? • Unusual items or situations, such as a vehicle that is parked in an odd location, or an unattended package or luggage is unattended • Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc. • Observation or surveillance, where a person is showing particular interest in a public building or government facility including someone extended loitering without explanation, unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building, taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.
  • When you saw it;
  • Where it occurred; and
  • Why it’s suspicious.

If there is an emergency, call 9–1–1.

For more information about the “If You See Something, Say Something®” campaign and to view Public Service Announcement videos, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something

Know before you go

Think back to the last time you planned a vacation or weekend getaway, and how much time you spent shopping for airfare and comparing hotel rates. Not surprisingly, most people invest much less effort into gathering safety information about their final destination—and all points in between—before they get there.

  • Do your homework. Research the seasonal health and natural hazards. Monitor the local forecast up until the day you leave, and pack accordingly. Check for S. Department of State travel warnings and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel health notices if traveling overseas.
  • Be informed. Create a Twitter List for your trip that includes local public health, emergency management, and law enforcement agencies. Add the phone number for local law enforcement to your phone.
  • Share the details of your trip. Identify an emergency contact and make sure they have the itinerary for your trip, including your airplane and hotel reservations.
  • Identify an emergency meeting place. Wherever you go—the airport, the hotel, the stadium, etc. — make sure everyone in your group knows where to meet in case you get separated in an emergency.

Create a travel-size emergency kit

Emergency kits come in all shapes and sizes from large 72-hour family supply kits to smaller “go kits” for use in an evacuation. CDC recommends that anyone who travels—from daily commuters to world business travelers—also prepare a travel health kit that includes:

  • First-aid supplies, including a first aid reference card, bandages, antiseptic, aloe, and a thermometer
  • Important papers, including hardcopies of passports, medical insurance cards, and prescriptions
  • Personal needs, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea, allergies, asthma, motion sickness
  • Items specific to your destination, the time of year, and your planned activities, including water purification tablets, sunscreen, and insect repellent

Wash your hands.

When many people are gathered in one place, germs that are highly contagious, like influenza and norovirus, can easily spread person-to-person and on shared surfaces like airplane tray tables, restaurant menus, and restroom door handles. As a result, you or a loved one may bring home more than a lousy t-shirt to your friends and family.

Washing your hands with soap and water is one of (if not the) best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Follow these five steps to wash your hands the right way every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

In addition to washing your hands and avoiding close contact with people who are sick, the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible.

Sources

In Case You Missed It: Top 10 Posts From 2017

 

In honor of the New Year, we are rounding up the blogs that were most viewed by you, our readers, in 2017.

  1. America’s Hidden Health Crisis: Hope for Those Who Suffer from ME/CFS
    Public Health Matters recognized the 25th anniversary of International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia. Between 825,000 and 2.5 million Americans are estimated to have ME/CFS, yet this debilitating illness remains largely invisible to most Americans.


  2. John Snow: A Legacy of Disease Detectives
    In 1854, John Snow was the first to use maps and records to track the spread of a disease back to its source. Today, his ideas provide the foundation for how we find and stop disease all over the world. Public Health Matters highlighted the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service in honor of the birthday of the father of epidemiology and the first true disease detective.


  3. Tips to Protect Yourself from Norovirus
    Every year, 19 to 21 million people get sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by norovirus. Public Health Matters shared five steps you could take to help protect yourself and others from this virus that can lead to dehydration or more serious illness, especially in young children and older adults.


  4. Why Diarrhea & Swimming Don’t Mix
    While sunburn and drowning might be the health risks that first come to mind when you think about swimming, diarrhea is another culprit. Outbreaks of diarrheal illness linked to swimming are on the rise. Public Health Matters shared five important facts about diarrhea-causing germs at aquatic venues and how to protect yourself and loved ones during Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2017.


  5. Keep your pets safe in an emergency: 5 things to know
    Many pet owners are unsure of what to do with their pets if they are faced with extreme weather or a natural disaster. June was National Pet Preparedness Month and Public Health Matters highlighted five things you can do to keep your pets safe during and after an emergency.


  6. Get a Flu Shot to Protect Your Heart and Your Health
    People with certain long-term medical conditions, such as heart disease, are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Public Health Matters discussed the complications of flu and the important steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you including getting a flu vaccine.


  7. Predicting Community Resilience and Recovery After a Disaster
    After a disaster, the number of people with psychological trauma exceeds the number of people with physical injury by as much as 40 to 1, but there is much more research and emergency response focus on the physical effects of a disaster rather than the psychosocial effects. Public Health Matters interviewed a professor from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health about their innovative model and index to measure resilience in the United States.


  8. Safety Tips Every Contact Lens Wearer Should Know
    Forty-five million people in the United States who wear contact lenses to correct your vision. Eye infections related to improper contact lens wear and care are serious and can lead to long-lasting damage, but they are often preventable. Public Health Matters discussed the science behind some of the important contact lens wear and care recommendations in observance of Contact Lens Health Week.


  9. Preparing for College Life: A Healthy Guide
    Public Health Matters invited our David J. Sencer CDC Museum Intern from the Walker School to guest write a post with tips for fellow graduating high school seniors to prepare to head off to college.


  10. Rural America in Crisis: The Changing Opioid Overdose Epidemic
    In America, 15 out of 100 people live in a rural area. The rate of drug overdose deaths in rural areas has surpassed rates in urban areas, and it is a huge public health concern. Public Health Matters explored how rural areas are different when it comes to drug use and drug overdose deaths, including opioids and CDC’s response to this epidemic.

 

We want to hear from you!

The New Year is not just about reflecting on the past, and as we look ahead to 2018 we want to know what topics you would like to see on Public Health Matters. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email so we can make sure that we are sharing content that is useful and interesting to you.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, follow @CDCemergency, or visit us on Facebook so you are the first to hear about new blogs.

Everyone can be a flu vaccine advocate!

Little girl getting a bandaid.
Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications. The flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting the flu and spreading it to others.

With the holidays quickly approaching, there will be more opportunities to spend time with family and friends.  Now is the time to ensure that you and those around you are protected from flu. Now is the time to get your seasonal flu vaccine if you haven’t already gotten it. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.—so it’s  important to get vaccinated now, before the flu begins circulating in your community.

Whether you are a doctor, school nurse, grandchild, best friend, or coworker, you can play a role in reminding and encouraging  other people to get their flu vaccine. Get your flu shot and talk to others about the importance of everyone 6 months and older getting a flu shot every year.

Talking to Friends and Family about Flu ShotsGet yourself and your family vaccinated.

Need some tips for talking about the importance of flu vaccine? CDC is a great source of information about the serious risk of flu illness and the benefits of flu vaccination, as well as information to correct myths about the flu vaccine. Below are several examples of the benefits of flu shots and corrections of common flu myths. Find out more about the benefits of getting your annual flu vaccine on CDC’s Vaccine Benefits webpage, here.

  • Flu can be a serious illness, even for otherwise healthy children and adults. While most people will recover from flu without complications, anyone can experience severe illness, hospitalization, or death. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking serious illness for yourself or those around you.
  • The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. Flu shots do NOT contain flu viruses that could infect you and cause flu illness. Flu shots either contain flu vaccines viruses that have been “inactivated” (or killed) and therefore are not infectious, or they do not contain any flu vaccine viruses at all (recombinant influenza vaccine).
  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu. Flu vaccines can reduce your risk of illness, hospitalization.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Making a Flu Vaccine Recommendation to Your Patients

Woman talking to her doctor
Talking to patients about vaccines can be difficult. CDC has resources to help you make a strong flu vaccine recommendation.

For health care providers, CDC suggests using the SHARE method to make a strong vaccine recommendation and to provide important information to help patients make informed decisions about vaccinations. Remind patients that it is not too late for them to get vaccinated, and follow the SHARE strategies below:

  • S- SHARE the reasons why the influenza vaccine is right for the patient given his or her age, health status, lifestyle, occupation, or other risk factors.
  • H- HIGHLIGHT positive experiences with influenza vaccines (personal or in your practice), as appropriate, to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence in flu vaccination.
  • A- ADDRESS patient questions and any concerns about the influenza vaccine, including side effects, safety, and vaccine effectiveness in plain and understandable language.
  • R- REMIND patients that influenza vaccines protect them and their loves ones from serious flu illness and flu-related complications.
  • E- EXPLAIN the potential costs of getting the flu, including serious health effects, time lost (such as missing work or family obligations), and financial costs.

Be an advocate for flu vaccination. Get your flu vaccine and remind those around you to do the same! Visit www.cdc.gov/flu for more information and tips on flu vaccination and prevention.

Interested in learning more about flu? Check out other CDC Flu Blog-a-thon post throughout the week for personal stories, advice, and tips on flu and flu prevention. You can see all the participating blogs here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/toolkit/blog-a-thon.htm.

Get a Flu Shot to Protect Your Heart and Your Health

Doctor holding a heart

“When you have a chronic illness, you do everything you can to stay as healthy as you can, which includes getting a flu shot,” says Donnette Smith, president of the heart disease support network, Mended Hearts. Donnette leads Mended Hearts with a mission to inspire hope and improve the quality of life of heart patients, like herself, and their families.

Donnette Smith
Donnette Smith, President of Mended Hearts

“I was born with a heart disease called bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), in which the aortic valve that prevents the backflow of blood has two leaflets instead of three,” explained Donnette. However, it was not until she was 18-years-old that Donnette was diagnosed with a heart murmur during a physical screening. Later, in 1988, at the age of 41, she was diagnosed with BAV and had her valve replaced through heart catherization. “It has been a life-long journey, but I have learned a lot being with Mended Hearts.”

The Flu Can Be Dangerous

People with certain long-term medical conditions, such as heart disease, are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Donnette describes one time she was diagnosed with flu, “I experienced rapid heartbeat, had other symptoms, and was hospitalized with an IV. There was no room in the hospital, and I had to be placed in the chapel.” Donnette was able to recover from these flu complications, and today is vigilant in her flu prevention efforts—making sure to get her flu vaccine each year and encouraging others to do the same.

You Have the Power to Fight Flu

Donnette continues, “You look at the flu differently when you have an underlying health condition. I 1000% believe in the flu vaccine, and get my flu shot every year! I also make sure to wash my hands often, and avoid touching my face. If you have a congenital heart disease (CHD) or other chronic illness, you have to be more mindful of being around sick people. Furthermore, it is important you head to the doctor if you experience any signs of flu. [Taking these precautions] is like putting a protective barrier around your heart.”

Whether you have a congenital heart disease, like Donnette, other certain long-term medical conditions, or you have loved ones or care for someone with certain long-term medical conditions, it is very important to take steps to protect yourself and those around you.High risk medical conditions • Asthma • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions • Chronic lung disease • Heart disease • Blood disorders • Endocrine disorders • Kidney disorders • Liver disorders • Metabolic disorders • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (HIV or AIDS, cancer or hose on chronic steroids) • People 6 months through 18 years old who are receiving aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications • People who are extremely obese (with a Body Mass Index [BMI] of 40 or greater).

  1. Get a flu vaccine. CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. Flu shots are approved for use in people with medical conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with fewer flu-related hospitalizations and complications in high risk groups.
  2. Take everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of flu. Everyday actions, such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick, also help protect you and others from flu.
  3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. If you are at high risk of serious flu complications and develop flu symptoms, consult a health care provider. Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder, and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from the flu. Treatment works best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).

Take it from a Super Flu Fighter

Despite the challenges of CHD, and living through serious flu illness, Donnette Smith thrives. From leading Mended Hearts as President to volunteering at a local hospital, she stays busy. “I do as much as I can for as long as I can.” She will be celebrating a grandson’s 20th birthday in a few weeks, and celebrating her 70th birthday on Thanksgiving.

“Your health is up to you. Flu can be a dangerous illness, and it can take a toll on your body if you have certain chronic conditions. Know how to keep yourself healthy. Don’t be afraid to get a flu shot; it’s a great shield against flu.”

How CDC Is Using Advanced Molecular Detection Technology To Better Fight Flu!

Lab worker

Flu (influenza) is a serious disease caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses change constantly. They are among the fastest mutating viruses known. These changes can impact how well the flu vaccine works, or can also result in the emergence of new influenza viruses against which people have no preexisting immunity, triggering a pandemic. Year round, scientists from CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and other partners monitor the influenza viruses that are infecting people. These scientists study the viruses in the laboratory to see how they are changing.

CDC is using next-generation gene sequencing tools to analyze flu viruses as part of CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) initiative. The technology allows CDC to study more influenza viruses faster and in more detail than ever before. AMD technology uses genomic sequencing, high-performance computing, and epidemiology to study pathogens and improve disease detection. CDC is using this Next Generation-Sequencing (NGS) technology to monitor genetic changes in influenza viruses in order to better understand and improve the effectiveness of influenza vaccines.

To share more information about this revolutionary NGS technology and its impactful work, CDC expert John Barnes, PhD, Team Lead of the Influenza Genomics Team within the Virology, Surveillance, and Diagnosis Branch within CDC’s Influenza Division took part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything digital Q & A, to answer the public’s question on AMD technology and how these tools are helping to improve influenza virus monitoring and the development of better-performing influenza vaccines. This post includes some highlights from that discussion.

Question 1: What exactly does the AMD technology platform do that is different from the current approaches used to guide vaccine development? And what are the most common reasons that we “guess wrong” in terms of which viral strains will be responsible for the next season’s flu?

Dr Barnes after Reddit Ask Me Anything Q&ADr. Barnes: One example of how AMD technology is used in vaccine development is to address mutations that may occur in vaccine viruses during growth in eggs used in the production of vaccine viruses. These mutations can change the vaccine virus so much that the immune response to vaccination may not protect as well against circulating viruses. This means that vaccinated people may still get sick. CDC is using AMD technology to try to solve this problem. Scientists are looking at the genetic sequences of 10 generations of H3N2 flu viruses as they grow and evolve in eggs. CDC will test all of the viruses to find out what genetic changes cause a good immune response and good growth in eggs. Once the “good” genetic changes are identified, CDC will then synthesize H3N2 viruses with those properties that can be used to make vaccine that offers better protection against H3N2 flu infection. One of the main reasons that the virus is challenging, is due to its’ RNA polymerase. The polymerase of influenza is very mistake prone and causes the virus to mutate rapidly. For example, in some years certain influenza viruses may not appear and spread until later in the influenza season, making it difficult to prepare a candidate vaccine virus in time for vaccine production. This can make vaccine virus selection very challenging. We are currently using AMD techniques to sequence all clinical specimens that come into the CDC to improve our ability to find and track mutations that may be of concern.

Question 2: Why are chicken embryos typically the go-to for flu vaccine cultivation?

Dr. Barnes: Thanks for this question – it’s one we get a lot!  Flu vaccines have been made using an egg-based manufacturing process for more than 70 years. In the past, when making a vaccine for production manufacturers utilized eggs as a safe host to make the vaccine and to provide high yield.  As birds are the natural reservoir host for flu, influenza typically grows well in eggs and maintains a safe distance between species you’re using to make the vaccine and the target.  Mammalian cell lines were subjected to extensive safety testing to establish a cell line that is human pathogens free, while maintaining sufficient vaccine yield. You can learn more about how AMD technology is improving the development of flu vaccines made using egg-based technology, here.

Question 3: What about the flu virus causes it to mutate so quickly from year to year requiring a new vaccine every season? For example with chickenpox there is one virus and one vaccine, why then with the flu are there countless strains and a new vaccine every year?

Dr. Barnes: As you know, influenza is a virus and can only replicate in living cells. Influenza viruses survive by infecting host cells, multiplying, and then exiting host cells. The enzyme influenza uses to copy itself is very error prone which causes the virus to rapidly mutate. Each host has its own defense mechanisms and these defenses are collectively referred to as environmental pressures. It’s difficult to predict how a virus will mutate when attempting to get around a host’s immune defenses, but the changes can happen rapidly, as you said.

Because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. More information about how influenza viruses can change is available here.

Question 4: Do you have any insight on the universal vaccine that was developed?

Dr. Barnes: Great question! Yes, I can provide some insight. A longer-term goal for seasonal flu vaccines is the development of a single vaccine, or universal vaccine, that provides safe, effective, and long-lasting immunity against a broad spectrum of different flu viruses (both seasonal and novel). Right now, CDC is a part of an inter-agency partnership coordinated by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (or BARDA) that supports the advanced development of new and better flu vaccines. These efforts have already yielded important successes (i.e. a high dose flu vaccine specifically for people 65 years and older that creates a stronger antibody response), but a part of this effort is the eventual development of a universal vaccine. A number of government agencies and private companies have already begun work to advance this type of vaccine development, but, as you can imagine, this task poses an enormous scientific and programmatic challenge.    

Question 5: How would you convince someone who is staunchly against flu vaccines that they’re a good thing?

 Dr. Barnes: Help address misconceptions about the flu. Remind people that a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. They should understand that anyone can get the flu, and each year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.  It’s important to stress that the flu vaccine can keep people from getting flu, make flu illness less severe if they do get it, AND keep them from spreading flu to their family and other people that could be at high risk of severe flu complications.

Interested in learning more? Check out Dr. Barnes’ full Reddit AMA here.

John Barnes, Ph.D., is Team Lead of the Influenza Genomics Team (IGT) at the Virology, Surveillance, and Diagnosis Branch of the CDC’s Influenza Division. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Dr. Barnes began his career at CDC in the Influenza Division in 2007 after working at a postdoctoral fellow at the Emory University Department of Human Genomics. His current work includes managing a staff of nine to serve the sequencing and genetic analysis needs of the Influenza Division. Current numbers of viruses sequenced by the IGT make CDC’s Influenza Division the largest contributor of influenza sequence data among the WHO Influenza Collaborating Centers.

When We All Work Together, We’re Stronger Than Ever

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Just look at the line for an annual flu shot.

 

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