[Featured Image courtesy www.policymic.com]
News outlets, bloggers, and tweeters are screaming about it right now: the pissing match in Congress over the Affordable Healthcare Act has led to a shutdown of the government. Without getting into the politics behind it, the shutdown could do more than force thousands to go without pay -- it could affect the health of everyone in the US. Maryn McKenna at Wired Science discusses the ramifications of the government shutdown, and there are a number of points that she makes that induce fear and panic, but the one that worries me most is this: a potential influenza outbreak.
The CDC furloughed 68% of its employees both in Atlanta and globally. According to a source at the CDC, no multi-state disease outbreak investigations will be conducted, surveillance of emerging infectious diseases will be weakened, and disease prevention will be discontinued. Additionally, there will be no rapid response for vaccine-preventable diseases. Although flu vaccines are still available, the CDC will not be monitoring seasonal influenza activity and there will be no health campaigns from the CDC encouraging people to get the vaccine. In addition to being unable to track influenza, if the government shutdown continues, scientists at the CDC will be unable to analyze new strains of influenza moving up from the southern hemisphere to plan for next year’s vaccine mix. We are just at the beginning of flu season. Could this lead to a massive influenza outbreak in the US?
[Image courtesy CBS Atlanta]
Influenza tracking, research, and investigation aren’t the only areas affected. Worldwide disease tracking and prevention are now shackled because scientists from the CDC who work with the WHO can no longer be sent to the field, including those who track and monitor polio outbreaks and the emerging MERS virus. Food safety, food inspection, and foodborne disease branches of the FDA are also shut down. Public health and safety both in the US and worldwide are at risk because the monitoring, tracking, and support systems provided by the CDC are at this point unfunded and nonfunctional.
The decisions being made by Congress are not only affecting the livelihood of millions of government workers, they are affecting the health of every American. We can only hope that there will be a swift resolution to this debacle. In the meantime, get your flu shot.CDC, government shutdown, influenza