Troy Trygstad, PharmD, MBA, PhD: The Possibility for Pandemic Flu

AUGUST 19, 2018
Cecilia Pessoa Gingerich
The 1918 influenza pandemic devastated communities around the globe, killing over 50 million people. In the United States, an estimated 675,000 people died, according to the CDC (Centers for Diesease Control and Prevention). One hundred years later, our world is more connected and potentially more vulnerable to the quick spread of the pandemic flu.

Troy Trygstad, PharmD, MBA, PhD, spoke with MD Magazine ® about the potential for a pandemic flu and emphasized that there’s no “crystal ball” to help predict this. However, he also addresses role the healthcare system can play in preparing for the possibility of an influenza pandemic. “We’re more prepared than we have been in the past, but we have a long way to go to be prepared for a really small world where a pandemic could spread very quickly,” he said.

What is the likelihood of another pandemic flu happening?

The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and the WHO [World Health Organization] as well, spend a lot of time and effort trying to plan for and predict pandemics. We don’t have crystal balls, when it comes to those.

We do know that we’re living in an increasingly smaller world, with more and more travel, and with more and more trade, and with more and more goods and services that cross and people that cross borders and areas and ecosystems.

We can anticipate that the issue of pandemics will only increase over time, and the need to address them and be prepared for them. As we think about flu, as we think about other types of vaccinations to inoculate against the spread of infections, I think readiness is an important aspect. We have seasons, of course, when we want to get populations vaccinated. But this issue of a spike or a pandemic, where you’ve got an exponential increase in risk over a geography—we as a healthcare community need to be prepared on all fronts to mitigate risks associated with those in a very timely way.

Is our healthcare system prepared for a pandemic flu?

I think we’re better prepared now than we have been in the past. Data is important, protocols are important, readiness is important.

For any of the pharmacists out there listening to this, I always encourage the pharmacists to get involved with their local public health department—they’re always looking for volunteers when there are crisis situations or spikes or outbreaks—and it’s a great way to get to know other care team members and collaborate and understand each other’s worlds a little bit more.

So, we’re probably not as ready as we need to be. I think there are a lot of nervous scientists out there who recognize that the world is getting smaller and smaller every day, and that life persists. We always have to be aware that there will always be new strains, there will always be evolutions of these diseases. And always staying one step ahead will be important. So being prepared is critical.

I think we’re more prepared than we have been in the past, but we have a long way to go to be prepared for a really small world where a pandemic could spread very quickly with a very serious strain.

I think H1N1 was the first wake-up call, but hopefully we can work together so there isn’t a second wake-up call.

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