Alexander: In Tennessee, Where 3 Children and a Pregnant Mother Have Died from Flu, Flu Season Highlights Need for Preparedness

Posted on January 23, 2018

“The law helps  protect us from the full range of public health threats – from natural disasters to bioterror attacks to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Tennessee has seen already heartbreaking stories this winter as the flu has spread across the state and this country.”

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 23, 2018—Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “In Tennessee, where three children and a pregnant mother have already died from the flu, the flu season highlights the urgency of reauthorizing our nation’s preparedness legislation.” 

The committee today held its second hearing on reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA).

“The law helps  protect us from the full range of public health threats – from natural disasters to bioterror attacks to outbreaks of infectious diseases,” Alexander said. “Tennessee has seen already heartbreaking stories this winter as the flu has spread across the state and this country. Already this flu season, a pregnant woman and three children in Tennessee have died of the flu.”

Alexander continued: “PAHPA provides a medical and public health preparedness framework that ensures we are ready and able to respond to public health threats, encourages research and development of  medicines to protect Americans, and enables our hospitals and state and local health departments to be prepared to respond to public health emergencies.”

The committee held its first hearing on reauthorizing PAHPA on January 17, 2018, to hear from Administration witnesses, including the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. Many provisions in PAHPA expire in September 2018.

Dr. John Dreyzehner, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, testified at today’s hearing. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, as of January 13, 2018, 61 out of 95 counties have reported at least one influenza-positive result. Last year as of January 14, 2017, only 29 counties had confirmed a positive result. Dr. Dreyzehner has served as Commissioner since 2011 and has significant experience responding to state and local public health emergencies including infectious diseases like Zika, and natural disasters, like the wildfires in East Tennessee in 2016.