As Flu Outbreak Sweeps Across Nation, Vaccines are Key to Prevention


This week, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared a public health emergency in the city due to a flu outbreak. City officials have confirmed 700 cases of the flu, nearly ten times the confirmed cases last year; four people have died so far. Outbreaks have been reported in other areas of the country, affecting individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. It’€™s hard to imagine the dire health consequences Americans would endure without the flu vaccine, which is due in part to federal investments in research. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have made efforts to improve production capacity, including improving guidance about the approval process, working with manufacturers to ensure adequate supplies of vaccines are available for the general population, and researching different strains of the virus that surface each flu season.

The Influenza Genome Sequencing Project, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is helping researchers understand how flu viruses evolve, spread and cause disease. As of January 3, entire genetic blueprints of more than 10,000 human and avian influenza viruses taken from samples around the world have been completed. The project is helping scientists understand how influenza viruses evolve and spread, thereby keeping Americans healthy.

The best way to stay healthy this flu season is to heed to the recommendation of public health officials: Get vaccinated!

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco