The Centers for Disease Control is just one of many government agencies functioning with a skeletal staff due to the government shut down and could impact the monitoring of the upcoming flu season. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Last year's flu season hit early and hard, but we were able to see it coming. The federal Centers for Disease Control was tracking the patterns across the country. Right now that national surveillance isn't happening.
"The government shutdown and the opportunity for the public to understand what’s happening is being impacted, but it shouldn't stop us. We know what happens every year," says GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Development and Medical Affairs Executive Dr. Leonard Friedland.
Friedland says there are plenty of flu shots available, including GSK's new FDA approved four-strain vaccines.
"These quadrivalent vaccines have the potential to offer broader protection," says Friedland.
The CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated, especially those over the age of 65, under the age of five, pregnant women, and those with chronic health issues.
"Vaccination not only helps protect and lower the risk the disease of the person vaccinated, but it also protects those around them," says Friedland.
Still, New Yorkers are not flying completely blind heading into the flu season. City and state health officials are monitoring the virus' progress locally.
"Knowing which strain it is can make a big difference in terms of knowing how to treat it," says Dr. Woodson Merrell, Beth Israel Center for Health & Healing.
Merrell, who heads up the hospital's Integrative Medicine Department, says there are other steps one can take to preemptively fight this year's flu virus especially since the vaccines aren't always a perfect match for the seasons' dominant strain. Washing your hands frequently or using hand sanitizer is one major step, less conventional, he says, is keeping a bottle of tea tree oil handy.
"Every hour, lets say when you're flying or when you get off the subway, you take just a sniff in each nostril. Most of the cold and flu germs enter your body through the mucous membranes. When you inhale these, it actually kills the germs," says Merrell.
Merrell says getting adequate sleep and eating healthy are also keys to avoiding the flu.
"If you're not getting enough fruits and vegetables, getting all the vital nutrients that keep your body strong, if you don't drink enough fluids and you get dehydrated. All these factors are something that drains your energy and weakens your immune system," he adds.
The state Health Department will release its first flu surveillance report later this week.