The US government shutdown is preventing children with cancer from beginning clinical trials, health officials have warned.
The US lurched into a government shutdown yesterday for the first time in 17 years after Congress failed to end a bitter budget row, forcing numerous government departments to close down.
National Institutes of Health spokesman John Burklow has warned that for every week the shutdown continues 10 children with cancer will be unable to begin accessing treatment in clinical trials, ABC News reports.
Mr Burklow said the children were among 200 patients that would be affected by the shutdown.
He said government health programs had virtually ceased with thousands of employees unable to work due to the shutdown.
"Unfortunately almost everybody is gone," Mr Burklow said of his office.
Prospects for a swift resolution of the mess are unclear. And economists warn the struggling economic recovery in the US could suffer if the shutdown drags on for weeks.
Only staff deemed essential are allowed to remain at work, leaving government departments such as the White House with a skeleton staff.
However, vital functions such as mail delivery and air traffic control are continuing as normal.
President Barack Obama sent out a tweet from his official account soon after the shutdown went into effect, saying: "They actually did it, a group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget."
Author: Alys Francis. Approving editor: Martin Zavan.
Source: ABC News.