Flu is focus of Friday's Public Health Grand Rounds

January 28, 2004

CHAPEL HILL — The public health community’s response to an especially perilous flu season is the subject of “Influenza and Beyond: Responding to Vaccine-Preventable Diseases,” a one-hour webcast and satellite broadcast Friday (Jan. 30) from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Broadcast viewers participating at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill satellite site in Rosenau Auditorium, 133 Rosenau Hall, are encouraged to stay afterward for an hour-long panel discussion of the implications of this year’s flu in North Carolina. Those attending may ask the local panel questions and discuss creative strategies to combat vaccine-preventable diseases in North Carolina.The webcast-broadcast is part of the Public Health Grand Rounds series created by UNC’s School of Public Health, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Friday’s broadcast features a case study where a local health department is “the patient” whose case is reviewed by a panel of experts.

In addition to being available as a live webcast, Friday’s broadcast may be viewed at hundreds of health departments, government agencies and educational centers nationwide offering local viewing sites via satellite downlink. More than 613 sites in 49 states have registered so far.

Online registration, program information, a list of available sites and the actual broadcast are at http://www.PublicHealthGrandRounds.unc.edu.

Assistant U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Walter Orenstein is one of the program’s panelists. “Vaccine-preventable adult diseases cause severe morbidity and mortality. Pneumococcal disease and influenza are major causes of death in the elderly and people with chronic diseases,” said Orenstein, also a physician, former director of the CDC’s National Immunization Program and special adviser to the National Immunization Program’s director.

“Vaccines are highly safe and effective and substantially reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, and health-care providers play a critical role in ensuring that adults get immunized.”

Each year, approximately 114,000 people nationwide are hospitalized because of influenza; about 36,000 Americans die from the vaccine-preventable disease annually. Health officials put the annual cost of treating influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases at more than $10 billion.

Chicago’s public health department and how it has dealt with this year’s flu season are featured in the case study portion of this Public Health Grand Rounds.

“The Chicago experience with community partnerships to bring adult immunizations to underserved communities is full of rich and creative new approaches, which are working,” said Dr. Hugh Tilson, a panel member and professor of health policy and epidemiology in UNC’s School of Public Health.

Dr. Bill Roper, dean of the School of Public Health and a former CDC director, will moderate the live discussion. Orenstein and Tilson will be joined by Dr. Kristin Nichol, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and chief of medicine at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Panelists for the 3 p.m. forum include Dr. David Weber, professor of epidemiology in UNC’s School of Public Health and of medicine and pediatrics in the School of Medicine; Dr. Jeff Engel, state epidemiologist and head of the general communicable disease control branch of the epidemiology section of the division of public health of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services; Gibbie Harris, director of Wake County Human Services and Health Department; and Dr. Pia MacDonald, research assistant professor in the School of Public Health’s department of epidemiology and director of the N.C. Center for Public Health Preparedness, a unit of the school’s N.C. Institute for Public Health. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Ed Baker, the institute’s director.

Continuing education credit for various health professions will be offered based on one hour of instruction. All viewers may submit questions to the panel at interactive satellite conference sites, by fax or online.

Previous Public Health Grand Rounds have featured bioterrorism, asthma, autism, genetics, breast cancer screening, disaster preparedness, West Nile virus, SARS, obesity, urban sprawl and food safety. These programs may be viewed at http://www.PublicHealthGrandRounds.unc.edu.

Public Health Grand Rounds is a program of the N.C. Institute for Public Health, the School of Public Health’s link to those working in public health.

N.C. Institute for Public Health contacts: Bev Holt, (919) 966-6274 or bev_holt@unc.edu, and Lisa Morris, (919) 843-9261 or lamorris@email.unc.edu