Government shutdown impacts CDC as flu season peaks

The recent government shutdown could impact the Department of Health and Human Services. People working at the CDC could potentially be furloughed until further notice.

So far this year 30 children across the country have died because of the flu. "We do rely on the CDC quite a bit for statistical information and for laboratory work. Those are very important," said Alabama Acting State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

As of now, the CDC hasn't officially announced what will happen during the government shutdown. Dr. Harris said thankfully the shutdown will not impact the work the Alabama Department of Public Health does relating to influenza. "In terms of providing our flu clinics and getting information out to people and tracking the things we track here in the state," Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Harris said if the government shutdown lasts a while they may start to see an impact. "We do have some other public health functions that we carry out on behalf of the federal government," Dr. Harris explained.

For example, the Alabama Department of Public Health has inspectors that look into licensed healthcare facilities. "Like hospitals and nursing homes and so on. Those are services we do on behalf of the federal government because we have a contract with CMS.  CMS means Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services," Dr. Harris said.

According to Dr. Harris, during the last federal government shutdown many of the employees worked for free. "We still have a responsibility to protect public health and still have inspectors that will go out and inspect these healthcare facilities," Dr. Harris said.

He said they were eventually paid once the government re-opened. He just wants the public to know they are still doing what they can to fight the flu outbreak.

"We are not changing any of our plans at all related to influenza, because of the government shutdown. We still continue to have flu clinics that are available to provide free vaccinations to anyone that wants that," Dr. Harris said.