As the influenza season approaching, the need for joint initiative is a need of the hour. But the ongoing stalemate between the Obama government and the Opposition has raised many unanswered questions before us.
The government-run, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) flu surveillance program is remaining suspended for now. The CDC’s weekly flu activity report, FluView, has gone missing for the second week in a row. This has put the people in dark about the flu. People have no idea about where flu cases are picking up, what strains are circulating, whether they match the strains in the vaccine, and whether they are sensitive to available antiviral drugs, among other things.
On October 1, when the shutdown began, the CDC had announced that they would not be monitoring flu activity during the hiatus.
An official statement on the CDC’s Flu Activity and Surveillance Web page said, “Due to the lapse in government funding, regular updates to the CDC Influenza web site, including the weekly FluView report and updates to guidance for clinicians, will not be possible. CDC will not be routinely analyzing surveillance data nor testing laboratory specimens submitted as part of routine surveillance. Support for outbreak investigations and response to public queries regarding influenza circulation and prevention will be limited during this time.”
Meanwhile, defending the action, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner reportedly said that the agency has not completely stopped all of its flu-related efforts. “CDC continues to provide limited support for respiratory disease/influenza outbreak investigations, and emergency processing of influenza laboratory samples for potential pandemic strains, to comply with International Health Regulations [IHR],” he said.
If a novel flu virus cropped up, signaling a possible emergency, the CDC would be able to call in furloughed employees to respond in accordance with the IHR, Skinner said, adding, “We will process laboratory samples and characterize potentially pandemic unsubtypable influenza viruses.”
However, experts like James Nordin, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and clinical investigator at HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Bloomington, Minn., voiced their concern about the lack of information on national flu activity and particularly on the antiviral susceptibility of circulating flu strains.
Nordin said an even more important issue to him is the information on antiviral sensitivity of flu strains: “I think that’s the single biggest problem.”
Another concern for Nordin is that a CDC-funded program to monitor the safety of vaccines for flu and other diseases has been suspended because of the shutdown. He is a site investigator for the program, called Vaccine Safety Datalink.
Whatever be the CDC’s stand but the ongoing shutdown has affected the health sector badly specially when the flu season is at its onset and thousands of diseases are ready to attack.