Fed gov't preparing for H1N1 resurgence

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
At an H1N1 summit, the government launched a $350 million preparedness campaign to try and get ready for what's expected to be a much more difficult flu season.

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The winter flu season is months away, but this summer we are seeing an unusually high number of flu cases.

"Usually by now, by June, the usual influenza cases have drifted down to zero. We are seeing, however, on-going cases and will continue to see cause throughout the summer," said Dr. Charles Chiu from UCSF.

Dr. Chiu tracks the swine flu from his lab in China Basin and what he is seeing is being replicated all over the country.

"The administration has been actively preparing for the H1N1 virus outbreak, scenarios that may develop over the next several months," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

On Thursday, Secretary Sebelius led an H1N1 flu summit at the National Institutes of Health outside of Washington D.C.

"Well, I think the most significant thing was just the enthusiasm and commitment," said Dr. Mark Horton from the California Department of Public Health.

From just outside the meeting, Dr. Horton told ABC7 the biggest challenge will be gearing up for a mass vaccination program. He also said we need to step up efforts to track the virus and to know right away if it mutates into something stronger.

"That could well happen and we're watching things very closely," said Dr. Horton.

The summit brought together the top public health, homeland security and education officers in the country, with the idea that better communication will facilitate better preparations.

Dr. Chiu told ABC7 their gut feeling is the virus will mutate by this winter.

"It is likely that there are some changes that will occur with time," said Dr. Chiu.

Dr. Chiu says likely the changes in the virus over the next few months will be small, and the vaccines that are being prepared now will be effective.

ABC7 asked Dr. Horton if he felt the state is prepared.

"I think we're where we should be, knowing what we need to plan for going into the fall," said Dr. Horton.

The most difficult part of preparing for the upcoming flu season is thinking of the things that you haven't yet anticipated -- preparing for something we haven't yet seen.

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