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May 2009
Vol. 19 No. 5
From the President
IDSA’s Role in the H1N1 Epidemic

As the influenza A:H1N1 outbreak continues to unfold, IDSA is playing an important role by bringing the perspectives of ID clinicians and scientists to the attention of key policymakers.

We have been working with colleagues at the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, our own Emerging Infections Network (EIN), and other groups to offer our expertise and support to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and other groups.

CDC and other agencies have done a tremendous job of developing recommendations guided by science, and consulting with clinicians and public health authorities at the local level.

IDSA has provided a forum for dialogue between policymakers and ID experts, which has been helpful to officials as they have diligently worked to issue guidance on appropriate interventions and precautions for physicians, institutions, and communities, and revise such guidance based on our expanding scientific knowledge about this novel virus.

The Society has played a role in the development of WHO’s protocol for rapid data collection in the developing world, as well as CDC’s guidance on important issues such as school closure and use of respirators. IDSA also has commented on FDA’s draft guidance to industry concerning the development of drugs for treatment and prophylaxis. We have brought to the table not only our members’ scientific expertise, but also our practical concerns about matters such as supplies of respirators, drugs, and other critical equipment, as well as the disruptive impact of closing schools and canceling community events.

Very clearly, the investments that the nation has made in pandemic preparedness and in the scientific understanding of the influenza virus are paying off. We’ve made huge improvements in surveillance, coordination, control, and treatment. But we can’t back off now—we need a sustained commitment. IDSA is advocating for increased funding to help replenish antiviral stockpiles, develop and produce needed vaccines, support global detection and surveillance, and aid state and local preparedness. Notably, federal officials have moved ahead to develop and prepare for potential commercial-scale production of a candidate vaccine for the novel strain.

Right now, the virus is spreading easily but appears to be causing mostly mild or less severe disease, akin to seasonal influenza. That could change, as more epidemiological data become available. We must be prepared and vigilant in monitoring potential mutations and the evolution of drug resistance. We have to watch carefully how this virus behaves as it moves into the southern hemisphere, where the traditional influenza season is upon us. We also need to be prepared for what happens in the U.S. in the fall.

In the meantime, IDSA continues to offer our expertise to officials and to keep IDSA members informed. IDSA’s Pandemic Influenza Task Force, led by Andy Pavia, MD, FIDSA, and our Rapid Communications Work Group, headed up by Peggie Neill, MD, have played critical roles in these efforts.

For the latest guidance from CDC and other resources, see the IDSA H1N1 web page, which is updated regularly.

IDSA members can also sign up to receive e-mail alerts from CDC and FDA related to H1N1 and other timely issues. For the sign-up form, click here. (You must be logged in to access this link.)

IDSA’s EIN is a sentinel network that assists CDC and other public health authorities with surveillance for emerging infectious diseases and related phenomena. More information about EIN is available online.
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