Government health and safety efforts slowed or halted by shutdown

first_imgWASHINGTON — The government shutdown has slowed or halted federal efforts to protect Americans’ health and safety, from probes into the cause of transportation and workplace accidents to tracking the flu. The latest example: investigating an outbreak of salmonella in chicken that has sickened people in 18 states.The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recalled some of its furloughed staff to deal with the salmonella outbreak, which has sickened more than 270 people and was announced by the Agriculture Department late Monday. Before Tuesday, the CDC had only a handful of scientists working on outbreak detection, severely hampering its ability to track potentially deadly illnesses.With federal workers on leave, the states have had to pick up much of the slack. In the case of food safety, state labs are investigating foodborne illnesses and communicating with each other — without the help of federal authorities, in many cases — to figure out whether outbreaks have spread.Dr. Christopher Braden, head of the CDC division that investigates foodborne illness, said the agency will be able to better monitor the salmonella outbreak with the recalled federal staff. But the agency is monitoring more than 30 outbreaks, and gaps still exist as the federal bureaucracy limps through a shutdown beginning its second week.“There’s a backlog, and the team is going to have to work diligently and long hours to try and overcome that,” Braden said. “It’s possible we may find something we’ve missed, and when that’s the case it’s harder to start investigations later than earlier.”last_img read more