SPH exterior

H1N1 Influenza Pandemic Retrospective

Originally presented on July 15, 2010

Gus Birkhead, MD, MPH
Deputy Commissioner
New York State Department of Health
Office of Public Health

The influenza pandemic of 2009 was an unprecedented event in the memory of today's public health and medical care practitioners. It was the first influenza pandemic in over 40 years. Despite years of preparation for a pandemic and other population-wide public health emergencies, both the public health system and the health care system were stretched to the limit over a period of almost a year. The epidemiologists were challenged to determine the nature, extent and severity of H1N1 disease in the population in order to target health care resources and, eventually, H1N1 vaccine. Public health departments had to mobilize their incident management teams in order to play their key role of coordinating the response to the pandemic. One part of this role was to provide guidance to the medical community on preventing and treating people with H1N1 influenza most effectively. H1N1 vaccine was produced in a remarkably short period of time, but still was not available in time for the second wave of the pandemic, leading to challenges in managing a scarce vaccine supply and delivering the vaccine in the most effective ways to protect the most vulnerable populations. Throughout, risk communication and education of the public played key roles in achieving public understanding and cooperation with prevention efforts. For the first time, many public health agencies used "social media" to get the message out.

Program Objectives:
After watching this broadcast participants will be able to:

  • Understand the key role that epidemiology played in guiding the public health response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
  • Understand the challenges of managing a scarce vaccine supply in the face of the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic.
  • Understand the key role played by public risk communications, the media and educational materials in assuring an effective response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.