Congress has decided to take the spread of Zika in the United States seriously. Doctors and scientists have been urging Congress to come back and decide on whether or not to approve money to fund prevention and research into the virus.
There was a lot of back and forth and a lot of passing the responsibility from the Republican side to the Democrat side. And the other way around.
However, it looks like there will be progress on the issue. As lawmakers are putting together a $1.1 billion bill that would fund action regarding the Zika virus.
Zika in the United States
While politics has taken its time with the issue, the mosquitos that spread the virus have been fast at work. Zika is spread very easily spread by way of mosquito bites. So the situation in Florida and in the territories has become worse and worse by the day.
An estimate on August 31, placed the number of reported cases of Zika at 2,722 in the United States and DC. When counting the territories as well, the number is significantly higher – nearly 17,000. Of the 2,722 cases reported in the United States 624 are pregnant women, according to numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control.
Only last week, researchers in Miami, Florida found virus-carrying mosquitoes. That is bad news, because that means that this is not a problem that will go away. If there is a population of mosquitos that carry the virus, they will infect many more people for the foreseeable future.
A tracking poll by Kaiser Health Tracking from this August had conclusive results. Half of the people surveyed said they wouldn’t be “comfortable traveling to places like parts of Florida” where the virus is present. A clear majority of 77% said that those places aren’t safe for pregnant women.
Progress on the Hill
With the bill and the money in place, action could be taken to fight Zika on a federal level.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the organizations that has run out of resources for the fight against Zika. “Basically, we’re out of money, and we need Congress to act to allow us to respond effectively”, the head of the CDC told reporters less than a week ago.
With more media attention on the spread of Zika, lawmakers decided to take action.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio stated in a press release on Friday that “Zika is not a political game”. Adding that people’s lives are at stake and that Congress has a duty to do everything they can to solve the problem as soon as possible.
The bill even has support from Tea Party lawmakers that have unofficially promised to leave the bill as it is. Florida Rep. Ted Yoho said that they will not attach riders to this bill.
The debate over funding is not an issue in the presidential race. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have spoken in favor of funding. More generally, Clinton has also asked for a “Public Health Rapid Response Fund”. It would be fully funded and would address “major public health crises and pandemics”. On the Republican side, a local Florida reporter asked for Donald Trump’s view in August. He said that it was up to Governor Scott.
Image source: here.