What's the Latest Development?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent home 68 per cent of its workers this week as a result of the government shutdown. Without access to CDC labs to identify which strains of the virus are circulating, new mutations could be missed. "This affects our capacity to see if the virus is mutating or whether we have unanticipated strains out there," says William Schaffner at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
What's the Big Idea?
The government shutdown could affect the deployment of vaccines later this season, which have to be well matched to circulating strains, as well as national response time to new viruses. "We're removed some federal government functions and the only freedom we have gained is the freedom to have more disease," Schaffner says. "Right now we're feeling our way in the dark." If the shutdown drags on for long, it could also threaten communication with the international health community, says Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
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