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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flu Season: Are we ready?

Just in time, The Next Hurrah has blogged about the Australian flu season and provides some insight into whether the United States is prepared for the flu season. . . .  The site states,

Severe flu seasons can be as bad or worse than a mild pandemic. Here's a post from our colleague Revere, one of the epidemiologists at Effect Measure, the pogressive public health blog, outlining exactly that. From Effect Measure:

Given our posts (here, here) on the particularly severe flu season in Australia, we thought it useful to remind ourselves that a bad flu season can be really bad -- worse than the 1918 pandemic in some locations. Here is a post we did back in April 2006 about an interesting paper (see link in post) by Cecile Viboud and her colleagues at NIH that looks at historical records on flu mortality. Flu is a bad disease, pandemic strain or not. Why some flu is worse than others we don't know.

The hospital diversions and capacity overflow is a reminder that health issues in this country (not just Australia) need to be kept front and center as a priority. A bad flu season would overwhelm our own EDs

A [2002] study to be published in the April 2002 Annals of Emergency Medicine on emergency department use and capacity in California, sheds light on the overcrowding problem nationwide and provides the first objective data on this crisis in the United States. (Trends in the Use and Capacity of California's Emergency Departments, 1990-1999).

The study finds that in the past decade (1990-1999) emergency departments in California decreased by 12 percent, while the number of emergency department visits at each hospital increased 27 percent to about 25,778 annually.

and the efforts to prepare for a flu pandemic (whatever strain of virus) only highlight the health infrastructure issues here in the US that are every bit as ignored as crumbling bridges... until they collapse. To their credit, California is trying to address surge capacity issues in their hospitals. Is that happening in other states, with backing from the legislatures?

The SCHIP program's proposed expansion to cover underinsured children (and Bush's virulent and mean-spirited opposition) is in the news now, and other health care issues need to stay in the news through the primaries and right up to the election. Government has an important role in rebuilding our health infrastructure, and we need to make sure the candidates from both parties articulate what they see that role as. . . . .  (See Gene Sperling's evaluation of SCHIP).

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