Crap. The Government Shutdown Is Terrible For Public Health.

fed-shutdown

I’m sure by now y’all have heard that the government has shut down and that America is effed beyond belief (if the astute Facebook feed opinions of my random cousin, some girl on my hall freshman year and my friend’s ex boyfriend are any indication). If you think the shutdown doesn’t affect you because you’re not a government employee or planning to camp in any national parks, think again: This ish has effectively closed the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services, seriously affecting our public health.

Basically, surveillance for the start of flu season and for infectious diseases (you know, like SARS and pertussis and all that scary kind of stuff) is going to be seriously disabled during the shutdown. That’s because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) must furlough about 8,700 of their almost 13,000 workers, and the FDA must furlough about 6,600 of the their nearly 15,000 employees. That means that a good chunk of our food inspectors, infectious diseases specialists, and the administration professionals who support them won’t be working. There’s not going to be many people on the ground, inspecting facilities for food safety or monitoring outbreaks of E.coli or salmonella during the government shutdown.

Bare bones operations (including meat inspections and high-risk recalls for food and drugs) will continue, but CDC spokesperson Barbara Reynolds told NBC News that:

“The vast majority of CDC’s activities will shut down completely. Our public health response will be slowed.”

Not only that, but all the work that isn’t being done during the shutdown will have to be made up when everyone finally heads back to work. That means there will be a backlog in addition to employees’ regular work, which means this shutdown will effectively affect the public health of the United States for what could amount to weeks or months, depending on how long things stay closed. Right now, estimators seem to think the shutdown will last about a week.

Crap. Let’s just hope we don’t get any Outbreak-style outbreaks in the next week or so.

Photo:  Rich Renomeron on Flickr

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