The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is keeping a close watch on the flu after the highest number of deaths from the virus last year since modern tracking began. In an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host John Dickerson, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said he fears the flu could become a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed as many as 50 million people worldwide.
“You know, people ask me what keeps me up at night. And the thing that keeps me up at night is just what you brought up, pandemic flu. So I think it’s very possible,” he said. “And we’re at risk for another pandemic. Our best preparation for that pandemic is to optimize our response to seasonal flu…But, John, I think that is, you know, remains a serious possibility.”
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The U.S. government estimates that 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades.
“We lost more children last year from flu deaths than any year before since we started recording…the majority of those children that died were not vaccinated,” Redfield said. “I want to come back and argue that immunization is one of the most critical tools we have to eliminate diseases…in this case, it’s the most important tool we have to minimize flu.”
President Trump has previously mentioned that he was thinking about a task force to look into the downsides of vaccines, but Redfield said he’s never spoken to the president about that himself.
“Have you ever thought about maybe educating him about the benefits of vaccines?” Dickerson asked.
“The most powerful tool we have to eliminate disease is vaccination…We’re on the verge of eliminating polio from the world. There’s 22 cases of polio right now. How did we get on the verge? Vaccination,” Redfield said.
The CDC recommends everyone age six months and older get vaccinated against the flu every year, though a recent survey suggests that many children may not be getting the potentially life-saving flu shot because of their parents’ misconceptions about the safety and importance of vaccines.
A child in Florida has become the first person to die of the flu this season last month, according to state health officials. State epidemiologists say the child had not been vaccinated and was otherwise healthy before getting sick with the flu.
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