Federal Shutdown Could Impact How CDC Monitors Infectious Diseases

Posted at: 10/10/2013 7:07 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 News) -- The Center for Disease Control has nearly been shut down as part of congresses inability to agree on a budget. This has left next to no one watching over infectious diseases and outbreaks.

Mayo Clinic doctors say this could impact not only the ability for health organizations to warn of potential diseases, but also the effectiveness of future vaccines.

Flu season is usually a busy time for the CDC as they are constantly monitoring outbreaks and which strains are being passed around. But this season the CDC is largely of commission due to the federal shutdown.

"That means what we don't have whether it be influenza or any infectious diseases, we do not have a key ingredient with which to protect ourselves and that's situational awareness," said Dr. Greg Poland.

Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert Dr. Greg Poland says with no one watching what each state is reporting, it could make for a potentially dangerous situation.

"Worst case scenario is a novel disease is imported into the U.S. There are spotty cases across a dozen states and nobody understands that it's happening in real time and we don't have 12 cases we have 1,200 before we realize what's going on," said Dr. Poland.

The shutdown could also impact next year’s flu vaccine. Usually they are already looking into what strains to put into it, but obviously that's not possible right now.

"All of this season we will collect influenza specimen and report it to the CDC, and we'll understand what kind of viruses are causing disease, obviously we’re behind," said Dr.Poland.

The longer the shut down the bigger the problems. Dr. Poland says the CDC plays a bigger role in our safety than one may think.

"There's an endless number of infectious diseases that are only an airplane ride away from us and who's going to monitor that over this time period," said Dr. Poland.

Usually health officials determine the strains for next year’s flu vaccine by February.