Suspension of CDC flu tracking raises concern

Saturday, October 12, 2013
By Paul Martin

Robert Roos
Oct 11, 2013

With the influenza season approaching and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) flu surveillance program suspended by the government shutdown, the lack of national flu data is starting to cause some worries.

The CDC’s weekly flu activity report, FluView, is missing today for the second week in a row. That means there’s no report on where flu cases are picking up, what strains are circulating, whether they match the strains in the vaccine, and whether they are sensitive to available antiviral drugs, among other things.

CDC officials announced on Oct 1, when the shutdown began, that they would not be monitoring flu activity during the hiatus. “Due to the lapse in government funding, regular updates to the CDC Influenza web site, including the weekly FluView report and updates to guidance for clinicians, will not be possible,” says a statement on the CDC’s Flu Activity and Surveillance Web page.

“CDC will not be routinely analyzing surveillance data nor testing laboratory specimens submitted as part of routine surveillance. Support for outbreak investigations and response to public queries regarding influenza circulation and prevention will be limited during this time.”

That doesn’t mean the agency has stopped all of its flu-related efforts. CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told CIDRAP News today, “CDC continues to provide limited support for respiratory disease/influenza outbreak investigations, and emergency processing of influenza laboratory samples for potential pandemic strains, to comply with International Health Regulations [IHR].”

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