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Thursday, August 4, 2016

UPDATED: Trying to fight the Zika virus despite Republican foot-dragging

Congressional Delegation Calls for Immediate Approval of Additional Emergency Funding

EDITOR'S NOTE: so far this summer, the RI Health Department has found no mosquitos carrying West Nile or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

UPDATE: this morning, the Associated Press reports the RIDOH has found the first instances of West Nile carrying mosquitoes in a sample collected in Pawtucket.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that Rhode Island will receive $200,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance efforts to rapidly detect microcephaly and other adverse birth outcomes caused by Zika virus infection.

The funding will be administered through the Rhode Island Birth Defects Program at the Rhode Island Department of Health.

In February, President Obama submitted to Congress a $1.9 billion emergency supplemental funding request. 

Despite multiple attempts by Democrats to reach a bipartisan agreement, Republican leaders chose to adjourn for the summer recess without passing a measure to fund additional emergency response efforts. 

Since that time, the number of countries reporting cases of Zika has grown from 26 to 55, according to the World Health Organization.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Clinical trials on a potential Zika vaccine have started, but are about to stop due to a lack of funding.

There have been more than 1,600 confirmed Zika cases in the United States linked to international travel – including 21 cases in Rhode Island – and last month, the first cases of locally-transmitted Zika were identified in Florida.

“I applaud the CDC for helping our nation confront and contain Zika, and I am pleased that this funding will help Rhode Island take necessary steps to mitigate the risks of this growing threat,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Reed is seeking $1.9 billion in emergency funds to combat Zika and has hosted CDC officials in Rhode Island to join local infectious disease experts in discussing the state’s Zika education, prevention, and response action plan. “The presence of the Zika virus in Florida is an alarming development, and as reports of Zika continue to increase in the continental United States, it’s critical that we are vigilant in our efforts to contain the virus and ensure the health and safety of our state and nation.”

‎“This federal funding will help our state promptly identify expectant mothers and infants who may be infected with Zika, so they get the health care they need as quickly as possible,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Still, Congress needs to provide significantly more funding to address the serious threat posed by Zika.”‎

“I am glad that the CDC has made these funds available so that Rhode Island can continue its surveillance, prevention and response efforts to combat the spread of Zika,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “However, reports of the first mosquito-transmitted infection of the Zika virus in Florida are a call to action for Congress. We must pass a bill that properly funds emergency response efforts without delay and without unnecessary policy riders that turn what should be a bipartisan effort into a partisan display. The health of the American people, and the safety of pregnant women and their unborn babies, in particular, is at stake.”

“I’m pleased the CDC is stepping up to protect Rhode Islanders and all Americans from the dangers of the Zika virus,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “This funding will especially help mitigate the risks facing pregnant women and anyone trying to become pregnant. Although this is an important first step, it’s critical that we do more. I will continue fighting in Congress for robust funding that vigorously addresses this public health crisis.”