The nationwide flu epidemic has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone its planned briefing on preparation for nuclear war and replace the topic with how healthcare officials can respond to severe influenza.
The previously scheduled briefing on how public health officials should respond to a nuclear detonation raised alarm bells given the announcement in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tweet about North Korea and a nuclear button. And this weekend residents of Hawaii were sent into panic when a false alert urged them of an incoming missile attack.
In the announcement for the nuclear war preparation briefing, the agency said nuclear detonation is unlikely but if an event were to occur healthcare professionals must understand how planning and preparation efforts are similar and different from other emergency responses.
But on Friday the CDC changed the topic scheduled for Jan. 16 to the public health response to severe influenza. The agency said that due to the spike in flu cases around the country, the grand rounds session will offer the latest information for public health professions on how to reduce the spread of the seasonal flu and how to adjust to spot shortages of antiviral drugs.
The agency said it will reschedule the topic on nuclear detonation response but didn’t list a new date.
The flu has hit all areas of the country and the CDC reports that the most recent hospitalization rate for the illness was 22.7 per 100,000 people. The week prior it was 13.7 per 100,000 people. The flu also led to the death of seven children last week, the agency said. In total 20 children have died this season from the flu.
Indeed, hospital emergency rooms and doctor offices across the country have been swamped with cases of the flu. In a media briefing, Dan Jernigan, the director of the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this is the first year since his office has tracked flu maps that the entire continental United States has had a widespread flu outbreak, USA Today reports.
In Rhode Island, emergency departments at three Providence hospitals had to divert ambulances to other facilities because they were overwhelmed with patients, the Providence Journal reported. On the West Coast, hospitals in San Diego county also were inundated with patients and Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa had to set up a "surge" tent outside the entrance its ER to triage patients with flu-like symptoms, in order to be able to triage patients with flu symptoms, according to NBC 7 San Diego.
In Alabama, WBRC reports that the surge in flu cases forced UAB Hospital to reschedule non-urgent elective surgeries that required hospitalizations, and Arizona state officials said the flu is so widespread that it has caused ER wait times to increase across the country, according to ABC 15 Arizona.