The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, ASTHO, says with the federal government shutdown and federal public health workers deemed "non-essential," U.S. public health has been compromised at a time when the U.S. is facing numerous disease outbreaks, a hurricane watch, and a host of other new and emerging threats, such as MERS coronavirus and H7N9.
The shutdown has also placed 9 million women and children at risk because WIC funding has stopped.
"This is the ticking time bomb scenario. The public health enterprise needs all components—federal, state, and local—to be functioning optimally to safeguard the American public," says ASTHO Executive Director Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA.
"We never know when the next severe public health emergency will strike. If it occurs when federal public health agencies are operating at minimal capacity, the consequences in American lives will be dire."
CDC has furloughed more than 65 percent of its workforce and is unable to conduct in-depth disease outbreak investigations during the shutdown. States rely on CDC to help identify outbreaks, particularly ones that cross state lines.
"CDC had to furlough 8,754 people," CDC Director Thomas Frienden wrote on Twitter on Oct. 1. "They protected you yesterday, can't tomorrow. Microbes/other threats didn't shut down. We are less safe."See also Shane Granger's post on his new blog PeakJobs. Rudolf Virchow (see his quotation under the banner) would be appalled but not surprised by this week's events in the US.