The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to postpone its session on nuclear attack preparedness next week. Much attention had been drawn to the timing of the agency’s session, which was publicized just days after President Donald Trump touted the size of his nuclear button compared with North Korea’s.
Late Friday, the CDC announced that it had changed its mind about next Tuesday’s topic, making a last-minute revision to reflect concerns about cases of severe flu.
“To date, this influenza season is notable for the sheer volume of flu that most of the United States is seeing at the same time, which can stress health systems,” the agency said. “The vast majority of this activity has been caused by influenza A H3N2, associated with severe illness in young children and people 65 years and older.”
Kathy Harben, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the session would address guidance for health professionals on trying to reduce the spread of the flu and to help with shortages of anti-viral medicines in hard-hit areas.
The CDC’s announcement that it was holding a nuclear preparation workshop drew widespread media coverage and embarrassed the public health agency. It gave ammunition to administration critics who believe that the president is bringing the country closer to a nuclear Armageddon.
The agency did not address whether the publicity influenced its decision to switch topics next week, or whether its decision was discussed with anyone in the Trump administration.
“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely,” the CDC wrote on its website, which included a picture of a mushroom cloud, “it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”
The agenda for the disaster session included “Preparing for the Unthinkable,” “Road Map to Radiation Preparedness” and “Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts.”
The replacement program, also next Tuesday, features sessions on “Chasing Flu,” “The Problem of H3N2” and “Mitigating Influenza With Vaccines and Antivirals.”