House hearing to address flu response Tuesday

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H1N1, seasonal flu on the decline--for now
H1N1, seasonal flu on the decline--for now

As nursing homes and other facilities continue to grapple with higher-than-usual numbers of flu cases this season, federal lawmakers on Tuesday will convene to learn how effective the public health response has been.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hopes to examine the strain selection decision-making process, how U.S. public health agencies are improving the effectiveness of response to seasonal flu, and the progress of federal efforts into developing a universal flu vaccine, advanced diagnostics, new flu vaccine manufacturing technologies, and new anti-viral drugs for treatment of influenza.

Subcommittee chair by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) said he hopes the result will be a better understanding of the relationship between seasonal flu preparedness efforts and the nation's overall pandemic readiness and response capabilities.

“We are in the midst of a terrible flu season and unfortunately we have learned that this year's vaccine is a very poor match,” said Murphy.

The main virus this year is a strain of H3N2, which is especially dangerous for long-term care residents. For the first full week of January, people 65 and older were hospitalized at a rate of 91.6 per 100,000, up almost 20 points from the same period in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.