"Diseases do not respect government shutdowns”
Public health experts slam politicians
Congress’ current piecemeal approach to funding government agencies is not winning fans among public health experts, who point to a salmonella outbreak that has spread to 18 states as evidence that the budget impasse is endangering the nation’s health.
The outbreak – which has made approximately 300 people ill so far – “is a grim reminder of the dangers that foodborne diseases present. Only today, our frontline workers — who protect the health of all of us — are hamstrung by the shutdown of the federal government,” said Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA).
“Diseases do not respect government shutdowns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had to recall 30 furloughed workers this week to help handle the multi-state outbreak. While I applaud the agency’s decision and quick response, these key staff will now be playing catch-up thanks to the government shutdown.”
Benjamin called the U.S. House of Representatives’ piecemeal approach to funding agencies “folly.”
“Last week they approved funding for the National Institutes of Health. This week they approved funding for the Food and Drug Administration. Yet they haven’t approved funding for the CDC, our leading public health agency. Nor have they approved funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is central to the disease investigation.
“While NIH and FDA perform critical, life-saving functions, all of these agencies do, and they work in a coordinated fashion, relying on shared expertise and resources to protect the health of our nation.
“This Salmonella outbreak is the latest twist in a dangerous game of chicken playing out on Capitol Hill.”
Benjamin said his organization, which represents a broad array of health providers, educators, environmentalists, policy-makers and health officials, wants an immediate end to the federal government shutdown and a comprehensive approach to funding all public health agencies.
“We also urge an end to the senseless cuts to nondefense discretionary programs through sequestration that seriously jeopardize the capacity of our nation’s public health agencies to protect our health.”
For more on the outbreak, including guidance for consumers, see USDA’s public health alert at http://goo.gl/113YkP.