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Presented by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Made possible by an independent educational grant from Roche

In collaboration with Gullapalli & Associates, LLC

Program Summary

Influenza is fundamentally a recurring disease that reemerges annually in a slightly different form. However, it occasionally presents as a newly emerging disease, very different from what was previously experienced. Seasonal influenza kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year, mostly older individuals; despite annual vaccinations, the U.S. faces a burden of influenza that results in approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year. Besides the human toll, influenza is responsible for a total annual cost of over $10 billion in the US. In addition to the ever-present and largely predictable threat of seasonal influenza, the world now faces the threat of a much more unpredictable pandemic influenza, caused by the emergence of a new strain of influenza virus to which humans have never been exposed.

Influenza viruses are notable for their resilience and adaptability. While the scientific community has been able to develop highly effective vaccines and treatments for many infectious diseases that threaten public health, acquiring these tools for the influenza virus is an ongoing challenge for the public and for the healthcare community; less than half of healthcare workers receive the influenza vaccine each year, which contributes to loss of the workforce and the potential for more nosocomial cases. Changes in the genetic makeup of the virus requires the development of new vaccines on an annual basis to forecast those strains that are likely to predominate.  To date, there has not been success in producing a vaccine against the H5N1 strain that is realistic for general use and the benefit of currently available antivirals for patients with infections involving H5N1 strains is unclear.

An influenza pandemic will place a huge burden on the US healthcare system which has many challenges: it serves as an “amplifier” due to nosocomial spread, healthcare workers have a very low rate of vaccination–40%, and even seasonal flu may bring extremely high absenteeism rates. Estimates based on extrapolation from the more severe 1918 pandemic suggest that a total of 9,625,000 hospitalizations and 1,903,000 deaths could occur. A pandemic comparable to that of 1918 would require almost 2 times the total number of hospital beds in the U.S. (191%), over 4 times the total ICU beds (461%) and almost 2 times the number of ventilators (actually 198%). Prepandemic planning by healthcare facilities is therefore essential to provide effective, uninterrupted care to ill persons and to prevent further spread of infection. Successful planning and implementation will depend on close collaboration among state and local health departments, community partners, and neighboring and regional healthcare facilities.  Current regional planning shows that surge capacity is simply not available for a major pandemic in terms of either beds or healthcare personnel.

We have three important weapons for dealing with influenza control:  vaccines, antivirals and social distancing.  All have limits:  antivirals have demonstrated benefit only if given early in the course of infections; vaccines are highly effective, but production capacity is limited and influenza strains often escape susceptibility by antigen drift, and the effectiveness of social distancing is assumed, but has not been well studied.

The goal of the Influenza Educational Campaign is to provide hospital administrators, epidemiologists, and other related healthcare professionals with the most up-to-date information, clinical data and a plan of action for an influenza pandemic through a variety of integrated educational media and programs.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Examine the impact of seasonal and pandemic influenza on the healthcare system
  2. Identify the risk factors and warning signs for specific influenza epidemics/pandemics, in particular avian influenza
  3. Describe specific measures for managing and preparing for an influenza pandemic
  4. Explain pandemic influenza planning and management strategies within various healthcare settings
  5. Describe methods to deal more effectively with seasonal flu in terms of healthcare worker issues and the care of patients with known or suspected flu


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