Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Congress Members Urge for More Funding to Fight Zika

By on August 17, 2016

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SAN JUAN – New York Democratic Reps. Nydia Velázquez and José Serrano, along with Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) Tuesday, calling on Congress to quickly approve funding to tackle the spread of the Zika virus in the U.S., particularly in Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico, with 10,000 cases, is ground zero for this virus. Moreover, several states, including Florida and Texas, have now seen locally transmitted cases,” reads the letter dated Aug. 16. “The current Zika outbreak has spread rapidly and brought the epidemic to our doorstep.”

Most recently, the U.S. Health & Human Services Department declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico due to the Zika virus and the threat it poses to residents. “If we don’t stop Zika in its tracks now, I worry we will have more birth defects in children over the coming months,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy during a recent visit to the island.

In their letter, the three lawmakers strongly support request from the Barack Obama administration to allocate as much as $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, and are demanding the lower chamber to “immediately consider legislation to fund ongoing response and research efforts.”

For instance, they noted how bringing to the House floor H.R. 5044, or the Emergency Supplemental on the Zika Virus, would provide the necessary funding needed to begin acting swiftly on the matter.

“Enough is enough; it is time for Congressional Republicans to take this crisis seriously and to immediately approve the funds necessary to deal with this crisis,” stated Serrano.

The letter further warns that as funding provided to the National Institutes of Health quickly runs out, failing to allocate more money “will lead to real-world consequences. Phase II trials of a Zika vaccine will be delayed until new funding is provided.”

“Public health experts have made clear that the funding the House previously passed is woefully insufficient and this failure is shameful and unacceptable,” stated Velázquez.

For his part, Pierluisi noted the alarming Zika statistics in Puerto Rico, which have more than 10,690 confirmed cases reported to date, including 1,035 pregnant women, “and the true numbers are likely far higher.”

The resident commissioner said it is critical for the federal government to take much-needed steps to fight the aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries not only Zika, but also dengue and chikungunya. For instance, Pierluisi called for “cutting-edge methods of vector control that can substantially reduce the population of aedes aegypti mosquitoes.”

While the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommended the aerial spraying of the insecticide Naled in an effort to reduce the local population of the aedes aegypti mosquito, the Puerto Rico government did away with the idea amid significant public opposition to Naled due to its negative health and environmental effects. The Alejandro García Padilla administration opted instead for Bti, a larvicide, as part of the government’s vector-control efforts.

Although the virus is believed to be mostly transmitted through the aedes aegypti mosquito, it is also transmitted via sexual intercourse, thus health officials’ emphasis on the use of condoms. High emphasis has been placed on avoiding having pregnant women be infected with Zika, as the virus has been tied to potential birth defects, including microcephaly.

“When Congress returns to work in September, it is my fervent hope that the House and Senate will act in the best interest of this country,” stated Pierluisi.

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