Mosquitos are effective at distributing diseases and they don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. The current Senate delay in approving funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus is frustrating, unnecessary, and dangerous. Now is not the time to be playing politics with the health of the American people.
Zika is known to cause devastating birth defects and could have other adverse effects on humans. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an international health emergency over the spread of this virus, and for the first time in history, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a travel warning over health conditions in the continental United States. The problem is that little is known about Zika, and holding up this funding is preventing necessary research and control measures from being enacted.
There are now 16 confirmed non-travel related Zika infections in Florida with the potential for that number to grow exponentially. Addressing this public health crisis requires targeted funding, resources, and common sense solutions to keep this virus from spreading further into the United States.
In June the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan $1.1 billion dollar spending package to combat the spread of Zika. That bill was promptly sent to the Senate for approval. Once the bill arrived, it was stopped cold and on July 14, Senate Democrats ignored the Zika crisis and left town.
The House bill used unspent or unobligated resources, included a mix of common sense offsets, and contained levels of funding that previously passed the Senate with unanimous support from Democrats. In addition to the $1.1 billion, back in February, $589 million dollars was transferred from the Ebola reaction fund, to begin the effort to contain this virus. To date, only a fraction of that money has been spent. Their combined total is $1.689 billion dollars, which is just shy of the president’s request of $1.9 billion.
I have sent a letter directly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging him to bring the Senate back in session, before September, and resolve whatever issues stand in the way of passing this funding bill. Now is the time to come together and solve this public health crisis as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans. The risk to the American people increases the longer the Senate waits.
My state of Florida is doing all it can, with the resources we have, to meet this threat head on, but more must be done. In addition to the Senate funding, the CDC recently announced that the State of Florida would receive $720,000 out of $16 million- amounting to a paltry 4.5% of new funding being allocated to Florida. I, along with entire Florida delegation in the House, sent a letter to CDC Director Frieden asking him to request more funding for Florida’s ground zero outbreak.
As more and more cases are reported in South Florida and around the country, we lose the opportunity to contain Zika before it becomes more of an epidemic. Floridians are well aware of mosquito-borne diseases and what needs to be done to control them. We have been successful in controlling chikungunya fever, dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever. Florida is currently on the front lines fighting this virus and with the proper resources, we can prevent it from spreading further into the United States.
Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.