After a battle over the health care law has shut down the federal government, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has suffered crippling repercussions, with clinical trial enrollment grinding interrupted and research on potentially fatal diseases and programs to monitor outbreaks grinding to a halt, FierceBiotech Research reports.

As of October 1, HHS had furloughed 52 percent of its workforce of about 78,000 employees.

While the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a division of HSS, initially had to suspend enrolling new participants in clinical trials, the Boston Globe reports that the agency received permission on October 3 to bring back certain workers from furlough so they could process new applications starting October 4.

NIH training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is suspended, along with scientific meetings and travel to meetings. Those scientists who maintain cell and animal cultures for their research will have to stop their experiments and will probably have to start over when the gridlock in Washington finally clears.

Posing a threat to those who are immunocompromised, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another HHS division, was forced to suspend its annual seasonal flu surveillance program right at the outset of the flu season. Disease surveillance programs have also taken a blow, as the CDC won’t be able to work with state and local agencies to prepare for disease outbreaks such as the H7N9 flu or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Meanwhile, the open enrollment period for the new insurance marketplace plans and expanded Medicaid that are the cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) also began October 1 and is not affected by the shutdown. To learn about how you can access insurance, click here if you are HIV positive or here if you have hepatitis C. (The core of both articles applies to anyone.)

To read the FierceBiotech Research article, click here.

To read the Boston Globe article, click here.