CHICAGO (Reuters) – If the U.S. Senate fails to avert a government shutdown at midnight Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be forced to suspend its seasonal flu program as the nation faces one of the worst flu seasons in several years.
According to a contingency plan released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC’s flu tracking program would be suspended in the event of a shutdown if the Senate does not pass a stopgap spending measure by the midnight deadline. The program collects data on flu activity, hospitalizations, pediatric deaths and tests the efficacy of the flu vaccine.
Overall, HHS said it plans to furlough 50 percent of its workforce in the event of a shutdown.
In its latest report on the status of the U.S. flu epidemic released on Friday, the CDC said flu activity continued to increase across the country, with 32 states and Puerto Rico experiencing high activity.
During the week ended Jan. 13, 10 children died from flu, bringing total pediatric deaths to 30 for the 2017-2-18 flu season.
The flu is now widespread in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, with only local activity reported in Hawaii.
The flu strain currently causing the most infections is H3N2, an influenza A virus that has been linked with increased hospitalizations and death, especially in young children and adults over age 65.
Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Leslie Adler