As we move into the new year, I want to share with you how we’re working every day to fight seasonal flu, how our seasonal flu work prepares us for a future pandemic, and ask you to help support seasonal flu vaccination efforts now.

Each year in the United States flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands or tens of thousands of deaths. Pandemic flu is less predictable but equally certain. Though less catastrophic than the 1918 pandemic, flu pandemics also occurred in 1957, 1968 and 2009. The way flu viruses constantly change and their ability to jump from animals to people makes it inevitable that another pandemic will occur.

The CDC is on the forefront of the fight against flu; working each year to hone our ability to prevent disease and death caused by seasonal flu viruses and at the same time to prepare for the ever-present threat that a novel flu virus will emerge to trigger the next pandemic. CDC’s annual flu prevention and control efforts include:

  • A global network that monitors flu viruses so that we know what and where viruses are spreading and what kind of illness they are causing and helps us decide which viruses to use for vaccine production.

  • State-of-the art laboratory science that is used to study flu viruses; to understand their characteristics so that we can better fight them.

  • Continuous work on testing and diagnostic tools that are distributed to state, local, territorial, and international laboratories so they can detect and characterize flu viruses.

  • Ongoing efforts to improve existing flu prevention and control measures, including better vaccines and better drugs to treat flu illness.

These activities are the foundation for a robust flu pandemic response. While we might not know when the next pandemic will happen, we know that the single best thing you can do to fight flu is to take time to get a flu vaccine for yourself, your children and your parents. Once vaccinated, you can enjoy this holiday season knowing that you have taken the single best step to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu.