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With 2/3 Of CDC Furloughed, There's No One To Study The Flu

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The federal government shutdown could actually make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is closed, for the most part. And the experts who work on preventing and managing flu outbreaks are not doing that.

On Thursday, the Mayo Clinic issued a statement explaining why doctors there are so concerned about the closure of the CDC, and what it means for this flu season.

The CDC, the Mayo said, is the only agency in the U.S. that tracks what is happening in every state, and then compares that data. The information is crucial for creating the next batch of influenza vaccines.

Now with the flu season underway, many of us are getting shots already.

Dr. Gregory Poland is an infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic, and he's worried.

"So now you've got a week, two weeks, who knows how long...there is no one really responsible for watching what is happening nationally," Poland said."State public health departments can look at what is happening in their state, if they have the resources, but nobody can piece together what is happening across states, across countries, and develop a comprehensive collage on what the threat might be for the American citizen."

The Minnesota Department of Health is held a conference Thursday evening on immunizations. Spokesperson Doug Schultz said the shutdown does present a setback for analyzing the flu.

"That means it will take, I think, a little bit longer for us to determine what are the predominant circulating strains," he said. "We need that information to know if the vaccine going to hold up as a good vaccine."

Clinics like the one at Target in Edina have been offering flu shots for weeks now. Some shoppers told us they too are concerned about the CDC closure.

"Definitely," said Regina Andrews, of in Minneapolis. "Anything that affects healthcare, we should be worried about."

Poland says there is an endless number of infectious diseases out there that the CDC monitors, such as: measles, rubella, polio -- diseases he describes as just an airplane ride away.

With CDC mostly out of commission, the staff can't do outbreak investigations. However, some CDC workers were called back to work this week. Those workers are the people who study food-borne illnesses. They're back because there was a salmonella outbreak in several states.

About two-thirds of the CDC staff is furloughed right now.

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