Tag: epidemiology

Who is Tom Frieden?

CDC Director Tom Frieden in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic.
CDC Director Tom Frieden in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic.

Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH has had a long career in public health, working as Commissioner of the New York City Health Department and most recently as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Frieden went to Oberlin College, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and did his residency in internal medicine at Yale University.

The field of public health aims to improve the health of as many people as possible as rapidly as possible.

A responsive government can maintain that people are responsible for their own health while also taking public health action that changes default choices to make it easier for people to stay healthy.

Dr. Frieden on The Future of Public Health

During his career, he:

  • worked to reduce rates of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis by 80 percent in New York City
  • assisted the national tuberculosis control program in India
  • directed efforts to reduce smoking, including teen smoking, in New York City
  • led the response to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic in the US
  • has pushed for more funding to help control and treat Zika, which he says will likely “become endemic in this hemisphere”

Perhaps most importantly, and despite some criticism, Dr. Frieden led the CDC during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. An epidemic that spread to the US and other countries and for which the “CDC has undertaken the most intensive outbreak response in the agency’s history.”

Recently, he has also highlighted “two shortcomings of our health system,” that the upward trend in life expectancy that we have seen over the past 50 years (about 9 years), “is neither as  rapid  as  it  should  be  —  we  lag  behind  dozens  of  other  nations – nor is it uniformly experienced by people in the United States.” And that is because “life  expectancy  and  other  key health outcomes vary greatly by race, sex, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.”

And after working to eliminate trans fats from restaurants in New York City and have chain restaurants post calorie information on their menu boards, he has continued to confront many of the more modern era epidemics, like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

He resigned from the CDC on January 20, 2017 and was replaced by Anne Schuchat, MD, who became the  became Acting Director.

For More Information on Thomas Frieden

Updated January 22, 2017

Save

This Year’s Flu Season

Flu activity is decreasing, but remains elevated in most of the United States.
Flu activity is decreasing, but remains elevated in most of the United States.

Breaking News: Flu season isn’t over yet. Influenza activity is decreasing, but remains elevated in the United States, and there have been 5 new pediatric flu deaths. (see below)

While flu season typically peaks in February, it is very important to understand that there are few things that are typical about the flu.

Since 1982, while we have been twice as likely to see a flu activity peak in February than other winter months, we have been just as likely to get that peak in December, January, or March. That makes it important to get your flu vaccine as soon as you can.

You really never know if it is going to be an early, average, or late flu season.

Flu Facts

While there will likely be some surprises this flu season – there always are – there are some things that you can unfortunately count on.

Among these flu facts include that:

  • there have been 1,482 pediatric flu deaths since the 2003-04 flu season, including 89 flu deaths last year
  • about 113 kids die of the flu each year – most of them unvaccinated
  • antiviral flu medicines, such as Tamiflu, while recommended to treat high-risk people, including kids under 2 to 5 years of age, have very modest benefits at best (they don’t do all that much, are expensive, don’t taste good, and can have side effects, etc.)
  • a flu vaccine is the best way to decrease your child’s chances of getting the flu

And even in a mild flu season, a lot of kids get sick with the flu.

This Year’s Flu Season

When does flu season start?

In general, flu season starts when you begin to see people around you with signs and symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue, etc.

To be more accurate, you can also look at reports for flu activity in your area, especially the weekly reports from the CDC.

Those flu reports can also help you determine when flu season ends.

As of mid-March, the CDC is reporting that “flu activity decreased, but remained elevated.”

The CDC has also recently reported that:

  • this year’s flu vaccine reduces “the risk for influenza-associated medical visits by approximately half”
  • influenza A (H3N2) viruses, a component of this year’s flu vaccine, are predominating so far this flu season, which could be a sign of a severe flu season. In general, “H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and higher mortality, especially in older people and young children…”
  • Is it a match? – “…antigenic and/or genetic characterization shows that the majority of the tested viruses remain similar to the recommended components of the 2016-2017 Northern Hemisphere vaccines.”
  • As often happens on the downside of a flu season peak, we are starting to see more and more influenza B each week
  • There are reports of a new avian influenza A(H7N9) epidemic in China. Although deadly, there is fortunately no reports of sustained human-to-human transmission of this flu virus strain that is usually associated with poultry exposure.
  • Next year’s flu vaccine won’t be changing much, except that “The  A(H1N1)pdm09  virus  has  been  updated  compared  to  the  virus recommended  for  northern  hemisphere  2016-2017  influenza  season.”
  • 36 states (down from 39), including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, are still reporting widespread flu activity (the highest level)
  • 11 states (up from 8), including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and Puerto Rico are now reporting regional flu activity
  • 3 states (up from 2), Hawaii, Oregon, and Utah, are now reporting local flu activity
  • no states (down from 1) are now reporting sporadic flu activity
  • there have been 53 pediatric deaths this flu season, including reports of 5 new deaths this week

Have you and your family gotten been vaccinated and protected against the flu yet?

“Anyone who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should get vaccinated now.”

CDC Influenza Situation Update

If not, this is still a good time to get a flu vaccine.

Recent Flu Seasons

Are H3N2 predominant flu seasons really worse than others?

  • 2003-04 flu season – 152 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2004-05 flu season – 47 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2005-06 flu season – 46 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2006-07 flu season – 77 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2007-08 flu season – 88 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2008-09 flu season – 137 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2009-10 flu season – 289 pediatric flu deaths (swine flu pandemic)
  • 2010-11 flu season – 123 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2011-12 flu season – 37 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2012-13 flu season – 171 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2013-14 flu season – 111 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2014-15 flu season – 148 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2015-16 flu season – 89 pediatric flu deaths

In addition to high levels of pediatric flu deaths, the CDC reports that the four flu seasons that were H3N2-predominant in recent years were “the four seasons with the highest flu-associated mortality levels in the past decade.”

For More Information on the 2016-17 Flu Season

Updated March 22, 2017

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Efficacy vs Effectiveness of Vaccines

According to the CDC:

Vaccine efficacy and vaccine effectiveness measure the proportionate reduction in cases among vaccinated persons.

But what’s the difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness?

Vaccine efficacy is used when a study is carried out under ideal conditions, for example, during a clinical trial.

Vaccine effectiveness is used when a study is carried out under typical field (that is, less than perfectly controlled) conditions.

Postlicensure studies can often help figure out vaccine effectiveness. For example, the study “Varicella Vaccine Effectiveness in the US Vaccination Program: A Review,” that appeared in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2008 “reviewed the results of postlicensure studies of varicella vaccine effectiveness and compared these results with those of prelicensure efficacy trials.”

That study of the chicken pox vaccine found that “the estimates of effectiveness are lower than the prelicensure efficacy,” although several studies found the vaccine “100% effective in preventing combined moderate and severe varicella.”

For More Information On Efficacy vs Effectiveness of Vaccines: