Lawmakers to hold hearing on nation’s response to rapidly spreading flu
WASHINGTON, D.C. – New data released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that this year’s flu season is off to the fastest start in more than a decade, and lawmakers in Washington want to know exactly what the nation’s top health officials are doing to respond to the rapidly spreading illness.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations panel – which oversees the CDC – will hold a hearing to ensure the appropriate federal agencies have the resources they need to respond to the spread of the virus, and get an update on their ongoing efforts to develop a more effective vaccine.
The hearing comes as the CDC reported Monday that there is already significant flu activity in 24 states across the country – up from 15 states that reported such activity last week – meaning this year’s flu season, which is starting earlier than it has in 10 years, is spreading quickly.
“Last year marked the longest flu season in a decade, and now we are seeing this year’s flu season off to an alarmingly fast start,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who chairs the oversight panel. “With this illness now spreading rapidly across the county, we want to know what our agencies are doing to protect the public’s health.”
Among those scheduled to testify at tomorrow’s hearing are Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who will provide lawmakers their updated forecast for the upcoming flu season and outline the steps their agencies are taking to respond to the illness.
Last year’s 21-week flu season was the longest since the federal government started tracking flu season durations more than 20 years ago. Some health experts say the unusually early start to this year’s flu season could be a sign of a more severe season to come.
The latest numbers released by the CDC show that flu activity is widespread in 10 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Another 14 states - Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington – are reporting regional activity, the second-highest level of severity the agency reports.
In Colorado, 3,832 people in 59 counties across the state were hospitalized with flu-related illnesses during the 2018-2019 flu season, including three children who died as a result. It was the second highest number of flu-related hospitalizations reported in the state’s history.
The latest numbers released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that 112 people across the state have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since the start of this year’s flu season.
Tomorrow’s hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. EST in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. It will also be streamed live at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKYBbbWAa3o&feature=emb_title
Below are additional details on the hearing:
WHAT: House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing on 2019 Flu Season and U.S. public health preparedness and response
WHEN: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. EST
WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2123
- The hearing will be streamed LIVE online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKYBbbWAa3o&feature=emb_title
WHO: Witnesses scheduled to testify include:
Nancy Messonnier, M.D. (CAPT, USPHS, RET)
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Anthony S. Fauci., M.D.
National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institutes of Health
Robert P. Kadlec, M.D., M.T.M.&H., M.S.
Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D.
Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research U.S. Food and Drug Administration