As the U.S. heads into the final months of winter, the flu epidemic has reportedly already taken the lives of 30 children in the worst outbreak in over a decade. Meanwhile, the discord in Washington has caused a government shutdown that has directly affected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a time when they are most needed.
As reported by USA Today, 30 children have died across the U.S. this flu season, according to statistics by the CDC. The prevalence of this year’s outbreak is due to a dominant H3N2 strain that has been causing severe symptoms and, when compared to other strains, is more resistant against the flu vaccine. On January 13, the CDC reported hospitalizations at 31.5 per 100,000 people. This is a significant rise from the previous week’s 22.7, which points towards a rapidly growing rate of hospitalizations.
As the flu outbreak continues to spread across 49 states, the recent government shutdown has forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to operate with a decreased staff. It is not clear when the government shutdown will end, but for the CDC this comes at a time when the vital information they provide could mean life and death for some.
As reported by Forbes, there seemed to be a peak in flu cases during the New Year’s holiday, followed by a steady decline. Alarmingly, the CDC documented that the rate of cases has seemed to dramatically rise in the past two weeks.
There has been very little information released regarding the rapid increase in flu cases and with a reduced staff currently working at the CDC, it could be a while until we find out the cause or even more importantly a possible solution to the epidemic.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined what actions the CDC would take in the case of a government shutdown in their Contingency Staffing Plan for Operations in the Absence of Enacted Annual Appropriations.
“The CDC will continue minimal support to protect the health and well-being of US citizens here and abroad through a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, processing of laboratory samples, and maintaining the agency’s 24/7 emergency operations center.”
In the meantime, the CDC has left us with a few tips to protect yourself and your children against the flu. First and foremost, everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine, which is the still the best way to protect yourself. In addition, avoid sick people, wash your hands regularly, disinfect surfaces, and take your antiviral drugs if the doctor prescribes them to you.