January 19, 2018 / 11:47 PM / a year ago

CDC's flu tracking program to continue if U.S. government shuts down

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue its work tracking one of the worst flu seasons the United States has seen in several years even if the federal government shuts down on Saturday, senior administration officials said on Friday.

A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

The program collects data on flu activity, hospitalizations, pediatric deaths and tests the efficacy of the flu vaccine.

Earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services had released a contingency plan in case the Senate failed to pass a stopgap spending measure by a midnight deadline. According to that plan, the CDC’s flu tracking program would be suspended during a shutdown.

But late Friday night, officials told reporters on a conference call that the program would continue.

“CDC specifically will be continuing their ongoing influenza surveillance. They will be collecting data reported by states, hospitals, others, and they’ll be reporting out critical information needed for state and local health authorities to provide, track, prevent and treat the disease,” an official said.

A spokesperson for the CDC was not immediately available for comment.

In its latest report on the status of the U.S. flu epidemic released on Friday, the CDC said flu activity continued to increase across the country, with 32 states and Puerto Rico experiencing high activity.

During the week ended Jan. 13, 10 children died from flu, bringing total pediatric deaths to 30 for the 2017-18 flu season.

The flu is now widespread in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, with only local activity reported in Hawaii.

The flu strain currently causing the most infections is H3N2, an influenza A virus that has been linked with increased hospitalizations and death, especially in young children and adults over age 65.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Leslie Adler and Michael Perry

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