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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 13 December 2022

rick larson 2019 introWASHINGTON, D.C. – Friday, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) introduced the Protecting America from Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza Act ("The Influenza Act”) to bolster the federal response to seasonal and pandemic influenza as seasonal flu rates continue to rise in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. CDC estimates there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu this season.

Reps. Deborah Ross (NC-02), Ami Bera (CA-07), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At-Large) signed on as original cosponsors of the bill.

“Getting the flu can mean missed time with loved ones, lost time at work and school, and long-term health and financial consequences. Congress must make a strong investment in seasonal and pandemic flu infrastructure to keep people healthy and safe and ensure the country is ready to tackle the next public health emergency,” said Larsen.

The Coalition to Stop Flu expressed its support for the Influenza Act.

“For far too long, our country has seemingly accepted tens of thousands of annual deaths from flu as inevitable,” said former Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Coalition to Stop Flu Tom Daschle. “And pandemic influenza remains an extraordinary threat to our nation’s health and prosperity. More can, and must, be done. The Influenza Act provides commonsense solutions to improve our ability to prepare for and respond to seasonal and pandemic flu.”

What the Influenza Act Does

According to CDC, vaccines are the best way to protect against flu and are proven to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. The Influenza Act would build on the National Influenza Vaccine Modernization Strategy, as well as lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, to increase access to vaccines and therapeutics, strengthen and diversify vaccine development, manufacturing and supply chains, and promote research and development of new technologies to detect, prevent and respond to flu. For more information on the bill, click here.

Why the Influenza Act Matters

While COVID-19 is the most prevalent public health threat, seasonal and pandemic flu remain real and enduring challenges. During the week of November 26, physician visits in Washington state for flu-like illnesses were up more than 600 percent from the baseline. CDC estimates between 12,000 and 52,000 Americans die each year from seasonal flu—often equal to or more than the number of Americans who die in motor vehicle accidents.

Larsen’s Actions to Combat Flu

Larsen is focused on ensuring communities in Washington state and across the country have the resources they need to keep people healthy and safe. Larsen led a letter to House appropriators in support of prioritizing funding for seasonal and pandemic flu infrastructure. Earlier this year, Larsen, Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, reintroduced a bill that would require the development of a national aviation preparedness plan for future public health emergencies; the National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act passed the House in September with bipartisan support.

Get Your Flu Shot!

The week of December 5-9 was National Influenza Vaccination Week, an annual observance to remind everyone 6 months and older that there is still time to get vaccinated against flu. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, including young children. Visit https://www.vaccines.gov/ (national), KnockOutFlu.org (Washington state) or https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/preventionwellness/fluprevention/Pages/index.aspx (Oregon) for more information and to find a flu vaccine location near you.

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