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Health Highlights: Dec. 28, 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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