CDC Pandemic Flu Fighters
Influenza poses one of the world’s greatest infectious disease challenges. The 1918 flu pandemic is a stark reminder of the devastation that can result from a global flu pandemic. CDC and its public health partners around the world work diligently to monitor and prepare for the next flu pandemic. Highlighted below are some of CDC’s flu fighters, dedicated public health professionals contributing to pandemic flu prevention and response at home and around the world.
As Lead of CDC’s Community Interventions for Infection Control Unit (CI-ICU), Dr. Amra Uzicanin is dedicated to developing the scientific evidence base and policies for use of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), for infectious disease control in community settings with a focus on pandemic flu. NPIs, also known as community mitigation measures, are the first line of defense to help slow the spread of pandemic influenza (flu). NPIs are readily available everywhere and can be used before a pandemic vaccine is available. CI-ICU works hard to prevent and reduce the spread of infectious diseases in communities by empowering people and communities to take action grounded in evidence-based knowledge of NPIs. Dr. Uzicanin says the 1918 flu pandemic “was a pandemic where ordinary people and communities as well as government authorities, public health officials, and healthcare professionals were striving to find new ways to fight off the flu and prevent its impact worldwide.”
Dr. Anita Patel is one of CDC’s key problem solvers working to protect the United States from a future influenza pandemic. Her responsibilities include making sure the nation has strategies in place for medical countermeasures to be able to treat sick patients and protect health care workers. Dr. Patel says the 1918 flu pandemic is a sobering reminder of the dangers of flu. “Learning from history allows us to plan for the possible range of impacts, and move the needle in preparedness.”
Principal Deputy Director of CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, is one of the many veterans of CDC’s fight on flu. Combatting influenza is a hallmark of Dr. Schuchat’s 30 years at CDC. In reflecting on the 1918 influenza pandemic, Dr. Schuchat says studying what happened can help us to better prepare the nation and the world for similar scenarios in the future.
Dr. Dan Jernigan, a captain in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), serves as director of the Influenza Division in CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. In this role, Jernigan is always working to prepare for the next influenza pandemic. “We are determined to intervene where we can to stop the spread of disease—that’s public health,” he says. For CDC’s Influenza Division, stopping the spread of disease means, “tracking influenza viruses and human illness with influenza viruses worldwide – be it from seasonal, avian, swine, or other novel flu viruses. We track illness, study the virus, assess the risk posed by the virus, make vaccine viruses that are then used to manufacture flu vaccines and help make policies for influenza prevention and treatment.”
CDC’s influenza laboratories play a leading role in the ongoing global task of looking for new flu viruses, assessing the risk they pose to people, and supporting efforts to proactively prepare for the emergence of flu viruses considered to have pandemic potential. This includes everything from conducting surveillance on novel influenza viruses, to developing the viruses that are used to mass-produce flu vaccines, which are called “candidate vaccine viruses” or “CVVs”. As Associate Director for Laboratory Sciences in CDC’s Influenza Division, Dr. James Stevens oversees and coordinates CDC’s influenza laboratory operations. He says the 1918 flu pandemic “is the deadliest we’ve seen in modern times. We have to remember it because it is the worst-case scenario situation, and we don’t want it to happen again.”
Air travel today can easily facilitate the spread of diseases around the world with each flight. CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) helps protect the health of our communities in a globally mobile world. As director of DGMQ, Dr. Martin (Marty) Cetron is a leader in global health and migration with a focus on emerging infections, tropical diseases, and vaccine-preventable diseases in mobile populations. He says the 1918 influenza (flu) pandemic was “monumental, and as an unprecedented event in human history, it taught us some really important lessons.
CDC’s Dr. Stephen Redd has deep and diverse experiences in responding to public health emergencies, including the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic during which he served as incident commander for the CDC’s response. For the past four years, Dr. Redd has directed CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, the group responsible for ensuring CDC is prepared to respond to a public health emergency.
Dr. Terrence Tumpey is a microbiologist and chief of the Immunology and Pathogenesis Branch (IPB) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Division. He’s perhaps best known for his groundbreaking work reconstructing the 1918 pandemic influenza virusexternal icon. In 1918, this virus was responsible for the pandemic that is estimated to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide. In 2004, Dr. Tumpey was the first to physically reconstruct, or “rescue” the 1918 virus, using reverse genetics to build an H1N1 virus with all the same genes as the pandemic virus. After the reconstruction was completed, Dr. Tumpey was the first person to study the live 1918 H1N1 virus in the laboratory.