Health officials take proactive measures against possible flu pandemics
Influenza cases are usually not life-threatening, but the disease can be severe enough to cause death. The best way to protect against the flu is the flu vaccine.
Last year, more than 17,000 cases of influenza that led to hospitalizations were confirmed in laboratories throughout the U.S. Hospitalization rates for those 65 and older was at a record high.
Deaths from pneumonia and influenza were at 6.4 percent -- just under the 6.6 percent rate for a disease to be designated as an epidemic.
The last flu pandemic was the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, which resulted in about 60.8 million cases in the U.S. Pandemics such as this lead to overwhelmed emergency departments, medical facilities and providers’ offices.
To decrease the likelihood of overloading health care facilities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in cooperation with the National Association of County and City Health Officials has created new ways for patients to get antiviral medications.
One of these tools is Flu on Call, a national network of telephone triage lines designed to integrate with local preparedness plans. If a caller is sick, or caring for someone who is sick, they are transferred to a medical professional who gives them medical advice.
The clinicians staffing Flu on Call operate under protocol developed by CDC and public health departments.
In August, a call for applications went out to select health departments that were interested in hosting a Flu on Call Demonstration Project. Sites were selected in September and will be announced later this month; the demonstration will take place in two areas during the peak of influenza season.
Antiviral medications will not be made available through the spring 2016 project.