Talking Tuesday: Spanish Interview on Flu Edition


Back in 2010, when I was working at the health department, a reporter from 1030AM in DC asked to do an interview with me about influenza. It was the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and the whole “EpiGate” fiasco hadn’t happened. So the bosses allowed me to do the interview with her. (Also, they didn’t have many people who spoke Spanish.) So I sat down and talked to her over the phone for about half an hour. We talked about influenza surveillance, the disease, and even some virology. It was actually a really good interview. I felt very at ease.

Listening to it now, I can hear some grammatical mistakes here and there from me trying to translate my knowledge of influenza — which I learned in English — into what I’m saying in Spanish. Spanish has a lot of conventions that need to be followed, and I was a bit rusty. Since then, I’ve made an effort to speak and write it to as many people as I can. It would be ridiculous, in my opinion, to not be able to speak it fluently one day when I think in Spanish and when everyone in my dreams speaks Spanish. (Yeah, it’s weird.) Also, it’s my first language, and I hope to pass it on to any eventual Big Fat Baby Ren.

So here it is, 28 minutes of me talking about influenza in Spanish. (If you don’t understand Spanish, then you’ll just have to wait until the next Talking Tuesday.)

As always, you can download the episode by clicking here. Or you can subscribe to all episodes on iTunes.

Talking Tuesday: Influenza Talk to Foreign Students


A group of students from Brazil came to Hopkins for a weeks-long course on public health. Now, these were not just any students. They were the cream of the crop from Brazil’s public health infrastructure. Some were physicians, others were epidemiologists, and others were from other professions within public health there. My aim was to talk to them about the changes that happened at the state health department where I worked while I was working there in terms of influenza surveillance. I tried not to “toot my own horn” a lot, and it was hard to exclude some of the barriers that I encountered while working there, but I kept the persona parts out… For the most part.

The talk is about an hour long, and you can also download it by clicking here.

We’re about to have a really bad influenza season

Today’s weekly national flu report had the following nugget of information under the virology section: “41(48%) of the 85 H3N2 viruses tested have been characterized as A/Texas/50/2012-like, the influenza A (H3N2) component of the 2014-2015 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine. 44 (52%) of the 85 viruses tested showed either reduced titers with antiserum produced against A/Texas/50/2012 or belonged to a genetic group that typically shows reduced titers to A/Texas/50/2012. Among viruses that showed reduced titers with antiserum raised against A/Texas/50/2012, most were antigenically similar to A/Switzerland/9715293/2013, the H3N2 virus selected for the 2015 Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine. A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 is related to, but antigenically and genetically distinguishable, from the A/Texas/50/2012 vaccine virus. A/Switzerland-like H3N2 viruses were first detected in the United States in small numbers in March of 2014 and began to increase through the spring and summer.” This might all seem a bit complicated, but, lucky for us, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains it thus: “Second, flu shots

read more We’re about to have a really bad influenza season

Days of a pandemic

I found these pictures in one of my hard drives today. They’re from the very early days of the 2009 influenza pandemic. I was the influenza surveillance coordinator at the state health department at the time. I decided that I was going to document as much of those days as I could. I didn’t have a good camera or good phone with a good camera. But I managed to take these candid shots. Enjoy…