With flu season in full swing and still considered widespread in Connecticut, lawmakers and health officials are seeking federal funds to help combat the virus.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro and local health leaders discussed the epidemic and ongoing efforts to fight it during a 10 a.m. news conference on Tuesday in North Haven.
DeLauro referenced a recent report from the state Department of Public Health that said emergency room visits from flu-related symptoms were up more than 14 percent, which was the highest level since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
“We have a problem with vaccine skeptics, we don’t have diabetes skeptics as far as I know, or obesity skeptics," DeLauro said.
In the nation's capital, DeLauro said she has consistently fought to add funds to the Public Health Emergency Fund to respond to public health crises like the flu.
The fund is modeled after the Disaster Relief Fund, when enables a quick federal response following a natural disaster.
“Very similar to a disaster relief fund which we have when we have a fire, hurricane, etcetera. This is about saving lives, these are the folks that are on the front line, wanted to hear from them," DeLauro said.
DeLauro said her bill in Congress, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Act, would provide $5 billion to the Public Health Emergency Fund, which only contains $57,000.
Another topic was research and development needed for a universal flu vaccine.
“If we’re able to get a universal flu vaccine, you won’t necessarily require people to get it every year, every season, so that would be a game changer, but in order to get to that point, you need to put in that investment,” said Dr. Byron Kennedy, of the New Haven Health Department.
Right now, some say they need to invest in a better flu vaccine, which this season is about 25 percent effective in adults and roughly 50 percent effective in children.
“Which is better than nothing, but if you think about, it’s really hard to give somebody a shot, and they turn to you and say doctor will it work? And you say maybe one chance out of four, will prevent you from getting sick,” said Matthew Cartter, of the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
The local health directors stress if you haven’t gotten a flu shot already there is still time, adding anyone from as young as six months and up can get one.
While we’re still in the midst of this flu season, the state says it’s also already starting to turn its attention to next flu season, getting ready to order the next batch of vaccines.
Tuesday's news conference took place at the Quinnipiac Valley Health District on the Hartford Turnpike.
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