Federal health officials, pediatricians, and ob.gyns. are imploring Congress to pass an appropriations bill with sufficient money to fight the growing threat of the Zika virus.
“Funding for Zika research, for prevention, and for control efforts – including mosquito surveillance and control – is essentially all spent,” Beth P. Bell, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said during a press conference. The Obama administration “has already transferred millions of dollars from other important programs to help with the Zika response, [but] without additional resources from Congress, critical public health work may not be accomplished.”
President Obama asked Congress in February to appropriate $1.9 billion to address all aspects of the Zika virus situation in the United States; partisan politics surrounding funding for Planned Parenthood have derailed passage of the legislation to date.
Without additional, specific funding, development of a Zika vaccine would be severely limited, and virtually no funds would be available to conduct multitiered studies that are critical for protecting both women and children from the virus’ devastating effects, Dr. Bell said. Additionally, money allocated to state health departments for the management of patients with Zika virus would no longer be available. Development of tests for early diagnosis would be slowed or halted altogether.
“Allowing this to happen needlessly puts the American people at risk, and will result in more Zika infections and potentially more babies being born with microcephaly and other birth defects,” Dr. Bell added. “Congress has come back from their recess, and we hope that they will do the right thing.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “continues to develop, update, and issue guidance on the risks, prevention, assessment, and treatment of the Zika virus,” primarily through its practice advisories and resources available jointly through the CDC, ACOG president Thomas Gellhaus, MD, said.
“The biggest impact Zika has is on babies, and they are our future,” said Karen Remley, MD, executive director and CEO of the American Academy of Pediatricians, adding that funding is crucial to continue monitoring children who have been born with birth defects, as the long-term development of these and other issues is new territory for doctors across the United States and its territories.
As Congress prepared to adjourn in advance of the primary elections, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that some progress is being made on Zika funding.
“We’ve made a lot of important progress already,” Sen. McConnell said Sept. 12 on the Senate floor. “I expect to move forward this week on a continuing resolution through Dec. 9 at last year’s enacted levels and include funds for Zika control and our veterans. Talks are continuing, and leaders from both parties will meet later this afternoon at the White House to discuss the progress and path forward.”