The Centers for Disease Control announced on Friday that it would delay a nuclear-preparedness teaching session to focus instead on a more quotidian danger: the flu.
The agency had been slated to present a workshop titled “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation” on January 16. “While a nuclear detonation is unlikely,” the agency had posted on its website, “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.”
Though the CDC had held a similar event in 2010, the timing of this one seemed designed as a response to the heated rhetoric between President Trump and North Korea over the last year. Trump has threatened to destroy the country with “fire and fury” and boasted of the size of his “nuclear button.” North Korea has bolstered its nuclear program to the point that it can plausibly strike the mainland United States. Hawaii, which faces a unique threat from North Korea’s weapons capability, has brought back a dormant nuclear-attack-warning test.
But the CDC denied that its session was related to Trump’s belligerence, claiming that the session had been planned in April, before his rhetoric warmed to thermonuclear levels.
Still, the agency has done little to tamp down the morbid-curiosity factor. As the Washington Post noted, “The initial CDC announcement featured a photograph of the distinctive mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast.”
This year’s influenza season is unusually severe, with a strain that has not been responding well to vaccines. “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 CDC said on Friday.