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Thereís a Salmonella Outbreak, But Public Health Officials Canít Work During the Shutdown

Thereís a Salmonella Outbreak, But Public Health Officials Canít Work During the Shutdown

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

On Monday night, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)†issued a public health alert for raw chicken packaged in California. The chicken has been linked to nearly 300 salmonella cases across 18 different states, a widespread outbreak that appears to have begun in March.

According to a†spokesperson from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, investigators have “had a difficult time pinpointing the source of the illnesses.” And now, as the government shutdown has furloughed the†vast majority of the nation’s public health officials, it won’t be any easier to trace the salmonella strain.

As†NBC News reports, the USDA and CDC can’t provide many details about the latest outbreak “because of limited staffing caused by a week-long government shutdown.” So far, the two agencies do know that the chicken in question was packaged at three facilities owned by Foster Farms, the same company that was the source of a different salmonella outbreak earlier this year. They believe it was mainly distributed to outlets in California, Oregon and Washington state, but they haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the strain to a particular product or a specific time period.

State health officials in California are still able to work, and are encouraging residents to make sure they’re fully cooking their chicken in order to kill potential bacteria. But the CDC, which typically monitors multi-state outbreaks of food poisoning, has been forced to scale back to a “skeletal crew” during the current shutdown. All but two of the CDC’s health officials who typically analyze foodborne pathogens†have been furloughed.

For the past week, CDC officials have been pointing out that they don’t have enough staff to continue the agency’s work while the government remains closed. The agency’s director, Dr. Tom Frieden, repeated those warnings on Monday. “Our ability to find, stop and prevent health threats has been cut by two-thirds,” Frieden†told Georgia Health News. “The biggest concern is what we don’t know. It’s very difficult to keep operations at full tilt.”

Wired notes that CDC officials couldn’t help track the current salmonella outbreak ó which involves analyzing microbes in an attempt to link cases that occurred states apart ó even if they wanted to. Scientists have been locked out of their offices, labs and email accounts.

The current shutdown is already one of the†largest and longest in history, and it’s also coinciding with the†beginning of flu season ó another one of the CDC’s multi-state tracking efforts.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress


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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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94 comments

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4:26AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

thanks for sharing

8:13AM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

Happy to be a Veggie!

7:26PM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

Sure - after all, we should be focusing on what's really important, and that is these - er- people have their day in the spotlight and make points with those who elected/financed them - never mind that people will get sick, possibly die, while they play games.

Politics in the USA is not only embarrassing, it's becoming more and more lethal!

5:44PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

scarey isnt it

6:33AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

I'm so happy I don't eat this

4:18AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

The shut down is akin to civil war. Your republicans are the terrorists. And you all have the 'Right to bare arms.' ?? What's next?

3:16AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

thank you for sharing

2:24AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Anyone feel like cooking a nice chicken dinner and taking it to our friends in Congress? Maybe they could think more clearly after several hours in the john. :P

Yeah, I guess I'm cranky today, try to forgive me. Money's drying up fast here and no end to this madness in sight. Write, call, or visit your congressmen, folks. :)

1:42AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Ann W. Share buttons are working fine. May be you need to turn off POP-ups. FB share works fine for me

1:35AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

I have a feeling that by shutting down they opened a Pandora's box temporarily

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