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Health Highlights: Dec. 27, 2018

Last Updated: December 27, 2018.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Government Shutdown Brings Cuts in Food Assistance Programs

Despite steep staffing cuts that will come as part of the government shutdown, the heads of federal agencies that are responsible for health and public assistance services say they will keep operating as long as possible.

Some of the agencies hardest hit include the office of Food and Nutrition Services that oversees the Child Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

By the end of the week, staffing for those programs will be cut by 95 percent, CNN reported.

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 61 percent of those employees will work through the first week of the shutdown, but those staffing levels will drop the longer the shutdown continues, according to the news service.

"There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve [the] USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide," Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

However, the USDA website carries a message that says, ""Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been re-established, online operations will continue."

But the USDA will maintain meat, poultry and processed egg inspection services, CNN reported. Inspections of food imports and exports will also continue throughout the shutdown.

As for the SNAP benefits, eligible households will still receive their benefits for the month of January. But other nutrition assistance programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, will only be operational based on available resources, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, child nutrition programs including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue through February, the news service said.

For the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, services that will continue include the Indian Health Service clinics, response efforts from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and specific activities under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including responding to emergencies and managing high-risk recalls.

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Jennie-O Recalls 164,000 Pounds of Ground Turkey on Salmonella Fears

Minnesota-based Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales is recalling 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products potentially contaminated with salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Friday.

According to a notice posted on the FSIS site, the turkey products were produced between Oct. 22 and Oct 23 and shipped to retailers nationwide. All bear establishment number EST. P-579 inside the USDA inspection mark or on the side of the tray.

According to FSIS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tied the tainted turkey to "an illness cluster involving 216 case-patients in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Patients have reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different stores, handling raw turkey pet food and/or raw turkey, or working with live turkeys or living with someone who handled live turkeys."

For a full list of recalled products, head to fsis.usda.gov and click on the "Recalls and Public Health Alerts" page.

FSIS said that, "based on the continuing investigation, additional product from other companies may also be recalled."

The salmonella bacterium can cause a serious gastrointestinal infection called salmonellosis. Common symptoms are "diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days," FSIS said.


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