Officials scramble to stop salmonella outbreak amid shutdown

ADVERTISEMENT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is teaming up with state health departments to monitor the outbreak, though the agency has furloughed 68 percent of its 12,000 staffers.

Some CDC workers charged with detecting outbreaks and linking them across state lines were sent home by the shutdown.

According to a planning memo submitted to the White House, the CDC was planning to ride out the shutdown by relying on a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations” among other cutbacks.

Food safety advocates worry that the shutdown is making it harder for regulators to protect public health.

“This outbreak shows that is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government websites to go dark,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, the food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“The salmonella strains are showing resistance to multiple antibiotics, and that means more people are going to the hospital, and their infections will be harder for physicians to treat.”

DeWaal added that the USDA should order a recall of all potentially contaminated chicken.

The USDA’s food safety service has also had to furlough hundreds of its staffers, though it has not been quite hit as hard by the federal shutdown. Of its 9,600 employees, about 87 percent are being allowed to stay at work until Congress restores funding for government agencies.