The flu is wreaking havoc globally this year. Influenza infections are on the rise, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting that this year’s strain will cause the highest rate of hospitalizations and deaths in a decade.
As an expert in public health law, I can state two things with confidence. First, the U.S. has made enormous strides in preparing for and treating the flu. And second, we still are not nearly as prepared as we need to be for the next pandemic.
If the world were to face a new strain of flu similar in novelty and virulence to the 1918 virus, our capacity to prevent a pandemic would still fall short because we have not made sufficient progress in science, infrastructure or implementation of preparedness plans.
- Develop stronger vaccines-First, researchers need to improve the flu vaccine. Most flu vaccine production currently relies on antiquated technology that requires experts to predict the most likely strains early each flu season.
- Spot outbreaks early-If the surveillance system were expanded to include more humans and animals in less wealthy countries, it would allow officials to detect outbreaks earlier and better track an infection as it spreads.
- Make sure everyone is prepared
Finally, government officials and other members of the health community need to pay more attention to plans for public health emergency preparedness.
Funding tends to go up after notable disasters and then dissipate when these events recede from memory. Plus, many of the resources available for public health emergencies depend on the discretion of executive officials. The recent reported difficulties of securing federal recovery resources for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria demonstrate that this is a real concern.
Read the full article about preparing for the flu pandemic by Lance Gable at The Conversation.
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