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CDC staff nearly restored to tackle salmonella outbreak

By Jenni Spinner+

08-Oct-2013

Severely cut by the US government shutdown, CDC's staff of doctors and scientists is back at nearly full force.
Severely cut by the US government shutdown, CDC's staff of doctors and scientists is back at nearly full force.

Whittled away by the US government shutdown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is back to nearly full force to monitor a multistate salmonella outbreak.

Just days after the shutdown, an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella linked to raw chicken from California attacked hit the US. As of this post, consumers in 18 states have fallen ill, with 42% of those hit by the illness acquiring symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.

Shutdown leaves US vulnerable

After failing to approve an operational budget, Congress had taken measures to tighten its belt. Personnel in dozens of agencies were furloughed, with the CDC’s staff cut down by approximately two thirds across the board.

One of the CDC’s key responsibilities is monitoring foodborne illness in the country. With the staff down to a skeleton crew—the Pulsenet foodborne illness communication network, for example, was stuck with only one person at the switch—the US had been left highly vulnerable to outbreaks.

In the aftermath of the salmonella incident, though, the CDC has brought back nearly all of its doctors and scientists to react to the outbreak, and help prevent and respond to future incidents.

FDA could be restored

Similarly stymied by the shutdown is the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Normally responsible for regulating food imports, domestic food production and managing food recalls, the agency’s staff was slashed nearly by half.

However, one Congressman is pushing legislation to restore the FDA to full staffing, at least temporarily.

A joint resolution authored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and approved by the House would fuel the FDA with emergency funds until December 15 or until the shutdown ends (whichever comes first). However, with the Democratic-led Senate promising to vote any stop-gap legislation proposed in lieu of a full, formal budget, the legislation’s chances at passage are likely slim.

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