Shutdown could make unpredictable flu even dicier

It\'s that time of year again: flu season. But a government shutdown makes it complicated to track the illness. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – The government shutdown is having an impact in an unexpected place — the 2013 flu season.

A flu-tracking website run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is suspended because of a lapse in funding. And as the season gears up, healthcare professionals are concerned.

“Oh, I hope that the government wakes up and that they stop the shutdown soon so that they can track this,” Dr. Erick Schobitz with Shady Grove Adventist Hospital says.

The CDC’s flu-tracking site bears a message for users at the top of the page: “Due to the lapse in government funding, only web sites supporting excepted functions will be updated unless otherwise funded. As a result, the information on this website may not be up to date, the transactions submitted via the website may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.”

Physicians are trying to get an idea of what the flu season will look like — especially after some sporadic cases over the summer and last year’s season that began in late December.

Schobitz has been keeping in touch with doctors in the region and says he has one friend in northern Virginia who tested positive for the flu. Shady Grove has seen any positive cases so far this year, Schobitz says.

In Maryland, one case of the flu was confirmed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in early October. It was the first of the season for the state.

WTOP is teaming up with Adventist HealthCare, Washington Adventist Hospital, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and M&T Bank to host a free flu shot clinic for adults on Wednesday, Oct. 16 from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

The first 103 flu shots will be free. The following 100 shots will be offered for $25 each. Read more information on WTOP’s website.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow @KingWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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