Tracking the flu virus

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Tracking the flu virus. Registered Nurse Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on January 19, 2018. (WPVI)

A government shutdown would also affect some federal health services. That could mean suspending the CDC's flu program right in the middle of an outbreak.

Information from the CDC is vital to track the virus. Its how we first found out where the virus started this season, where it's peaking and what that means for our area.

A government shutdown could affect how healthcare providers handle the epidemic.

Shortly after the holiday season after lots of travel and snow and frigid temperatures kept people inside close together that's when we started to see a spike in flu activity in our area.

But judging from data coming from the CDC, we could tell the virus was coming.

Hospitals in other states saw spikes earlier with emergency rooms overwhelmed.

The predominant strain is the H3-N2. It can be especially dangerous. And not just for the sick or elderly but also kids and healthy adults.

Friday morning, news spread from Alabama, a third grader there Zanib Momin was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and flu-like symptoms. She died that night.

Dr. Michael Akhondver, emergency room doctor said, "Do not try to guess and treat yourself at home in some rare cases God forbid it might cost someone's life."

Officials say so far this flu season is "moderately severe" but it's the worst we've seen since the 2009-2010 outbreak of H1- N1.

If the federal government shuts down, many workers at the CDC will be furloughed.

The agency likely won't be able to support its full annual influenza program.

State health departments will still track the virus, reported illnesses and deaths, but information shared state to state will be affected.

Decisions regarding the vaccine supply and shipments of anti-virals like Tamiflu could also take a hit.

So right now, there's a lot of unknowns. The CDC typically collects all the information from the states and can give us a better idea about the virus.

Officials there also track when the virus peaks - which it hasn't yet.

They do have a contingency plan in place if there is a government shutdown. The CDC would keep about 37-percent of its employees working.

But keep in mind, they would be spread out to cover several different programs, so we could be getting information slower.
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