The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been planning to hold a meeting on how to prepare for a possible nuclear detonation since last April. However, officials abruptly changed the topic last minute to “Public Health Response to Severe Influenza” late Friday afternoon, the New York Times reports.
“The topic for CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds on January 16 will now focus on influenza,” the meeting description now states. “With the spike in flu cases around the country, this Grand Rounds will provide key and timely information for public health professionals on how to reduce the spread of seasonal flu in communities and adjust to spot shortages in antiviral drugs because of high influenza activity in some areas.”
Indeed, the flu has been more severe this year than in previous years, however, it’s an interesting move considering the ongoing talks, threats—and today’s false alarm in Hawaii—around a potential nuclear attack.
The meeting on influenza will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. (ET)—the same time the nuclear detonation preparedness meeting was scheduled to take place which made headlines the first week of January (it was also the same week Donald Trump tweeted about his “nuclear button”).
According to the New York Times, the CDC didn’t “address whether the publicity influenced its decision to switch topics next week, or whether its decision was discussed with anyone in the Trump administration.”
When contacted about the nuclear preparedness meeting in early January Kathy Harben, chief of news media at the CDC, told Salon in an email that the meeting was “part of its mission” to provide “common defense of the country against all health threats.”
“To fulfill that mission, Public Health Grand Rounds is part of CDC's longstanding and routine work, similar to work it does to prepare for other possible health emergencies with the goal of ensuring the public health community is prepared for all types of health threats. Planning for the Grand Rounds takes place regularly, and planning for this one [nuclear preparedness] began last April,” Harben said.
Trump's rhetoric against North Korea began in March though.
The nuclear preparedness meeting is expected to be rescheduled.
Update (Jan. 13, 9:30pm ET): Kathy Harben wrote in an email to Salon"The topic for CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds on January 16 will now focus on influenza. With the spike in flu cases around the country, this Grand Rounds will provide key and timely information for public health professionals on how to reduce the spread of seasonal flu in communities and adjust to spot shortages in antiviral drugs because of high influenza activity in some areas. The previous public health topic will be rescheduled for a future Grand Rounds."