State Health Officials say it’s too soon to tell how the flu season will shake out this year. But as soon as it comes, the federal agency responsible for monitoring its spread across the country is crippled by the government shutdown.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks each year's flu season and gathers information for all states to report trends.
The CDC does act as a lifeline in the event of a major outbreak of an infectious disease -- but Alaska health officials say that for now, flu vaccine supplies are available and in-state monitoring continues.
“Within Alaska, we have a good system set up. We’ve got good surveillance; we’ve got good people, a good lab that can conduct flu surveillance,” said Michael Cooper, infectious disease program manager with the state Department of Health and Social Services. “But not having that national picture is one of the big impacts of the shutdown with so many people furloughed.”
Another issue the CDC is facing due to the government shutdown is that its website hasn’t been updated in weeks. That means neither the public nor state and local health departments can access up to-date health information that’s affecting other parts of the country.
Although flu season hasn’t quite started here in Alaska yet, there has only been one case reported in the past couple of weeks. Cooper recommends getting vaccinated as soon as possible, because the flu vaccine takes up to two weeks before it becomes effective.