CDC assumes communications lead as flu epidemic grips the US

ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the lead in communicating with the American public as the nation battles one of its worst influenza seasons in years at a time when stocks of the flu vaccine are running low.

ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the lead in communicating with the American public as the nation battles one of its worst influenza seasons in years at a time when stocks of the flu vaccine are running low.

Llelwyn Grant, spokesperson for the CDC, said the agency has been doing all it can to keep the public informed about the "surveillance activities" underway to assess each state's remaining vaccine supply.

The CDC has made its director Dr. Judy Gerberding readily available to media outlets, through which she has recommended steps people can take to lower their chances of catching the virus. Additionally, Gerberding and other CDC spokespeople have been talking to the press about the importance of giving priority to people who are at an especially heightened risk for catching the flu - adults over 50, children between six and 23 months, and those with compromised immune systems - when shots are dispensed.

The CDC has been using its Health Alert Network to communicate with healthcare workers. The network was developed to send out key messages to hospitals and state and local health departments.

Other than Ogilvy PR, which the CDC works with on a regular basis to coordinate press briefings, no other external communications firms are assisting the agency with the flu situation.

Neither Aventis nor Chiron, the only two companies that make the flu vaccine, could be reached for comment before PRWeek went to press. However, Grant said communications efforts by the two concerns are not affiliated with the CDC's, but that all parties have "a working relationship" that keeps everyone informed about the status of remaining supplies and outgoing messages.

Speaking about the possibility of enlisting some more external crisis communications support, Grant said, "If there should be a need, we have always been open to any recommendations" that any of the CDC's partner agencies, such as the FDA or HHS, might make.

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