Government and Regulations

White House Places All Hands On Deck to Combat Emerging Zika Threat

The Department of Health and Human Services taps DoD experts to assist Zika research efforts.



As the Zika virus continues to emerge as a potential health risk within the U.S., the Obama administration announced its intention to ask Congress for $1.8 billion to respond to the Zika virus threat. The White House summary stressed the need to accelerate research efforts, increase the availability of diagnostic tests, develop vaccines and treatment plans, and bolster education and prevention efforts.

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Pending Congressional approval, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will receive the lion’s share of these funds—nearly $1.5 billion. Given its prior experience in treating the virus, HHS has already asked experts within the DoD to support its research.

“This is an area where the DoD has done some research in the past, and I think some of that expertise will be brought to this effort," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a briefing. "We'll be supporting HHS in whatever way we can."

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The announcement comes after a meeting attended by President Obama and leaders of both the DoD and HHS. Topics of discussion included how the Zika virus is transmitted and how widespread that transmission could be. A summary of the meeting shows that attendees discussed how to protect the American public effectively. Attendees also discussed the need to accelerate treatment research to provide guidance for health care providers who care for pregnant women—particularly given the virus’ potential links to birth defects and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

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