Schumer: Fight To Prevent & Treat Zika Virus Is Dramatically Underfunded; Upstate NY Health Officials & Medical Providers Need Immediate Federal Funding, Before Mosquito Season Takes Hold

Senator Says $1.9 Billion In Emergency Fed Funding Is Vital To Preventing & Treating The Spread of Zika Virus In WNY

Schumer: Congress Must Get Serious About Stopping The Spread of Zika

Standing at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, in the wake of recently reported cases of Zika virus in both Niagara and Erie Counties, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the virus. Schumer said that upstate hospitals, medical providers and public health systems, including in Western New York, need immediate access to money to fight the spread of the virus and treat those who have been infected. Zika virus is suspected to cause micro-encephalitis in babies, and Schumer said that Congress must approve emergency funding to protect pregnant mothers and their children before it is too late. 

“With so many women and families across Western New York looking for action, it is critical that members of Congress work together to green-light this $1.9 billion in emergency funding. We need to get this done as soon as possible so that we can help stem the spread of Zika,” said Schumer. “Simply put, anyone repellent to this emergency funding plan isn’t serious about beating Zika. When it comes to fighting this epidemic, a stitch in time will save nine – so I will do everything in my power to make sure emergency funding is delivered.”

With legislation necessary to take on the Zika virus headed to the Senate floor soon, Schumer today announced he is pushing the President’s emergency funding request of $1.9 billion, which would help prevent and treat the spread of the Zika epidemic. Schumer said that more than 800 Americans have already contracted Zika, with 60 confirmed cases in New York State. Most recently, there were two cases found in Western New York, most recently in Niagara County. Schumer said this proves the disease is still spreading and Congress must act to help stop it. Schumer said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed the link between Zika during pregnancy and severe birth defects, like microcephaly. Therefore, Schumer said these funds are critical in the fight against Zika, and that Congress must deliver this funding before the epidemic spreads and more cases are brought to the United States come mosquito season.

President Obama’s supplemental emergency funding request – now part of legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson [D-FL] – includes a comprehensive response to the Zika virus. Specifically, these emergency federal funds would allow the U.S. to take critical steps in the response to Zika at home and abroad. For instance, the plan would improve vector control, expand access to family planning and contraceptives, and accelerate efforts to developing a vaccine. There is currently no treatment or vaccine available for Zika. Funds could be used to provide for mosquito control programs across the country, and in Western New York. Mosquito control programs typically involve surveillance methods, source reduction methods and other control strategies. Additionally, the funds would help perfect diagnostic tools and testing.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person who has already been infected by the virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito species has spread most of the cases; these types of mosquitoes have been found in Florida and Hawaii. The Asian Tiger mosquito is also known to transmit the virus; these types of mosquitoes have been found in New York and Chicago.

Schumer was joined by Tim Kornacki, Corporate Emergency Manager, Kaleida Health. 

“The discovery of Zika virus in Eire and Niagara counties is troubling - although not unexpected,” said Tim Kornacki. “But the lack of funding nationwide to treat this virus is alarming. We appreciate Senator Schumer's advocacy to push for increased funding so that heath care providers like Kaleida Health can be prepared to help stop the spread of Zika, and treat those who may become infected.”

Common symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. However, the virus may cause more serious risks to those who are pregnant. Earlier this year, the CDC confirmed that the Zika virus can cause microcephaly and other birth defects.  Microcephaly is a rare condition in which the baby’s head is abnormally small and can have brain damage. Thousands of infants in Brazil have already been born with microcephaly since last spring. More than 800 Americans have been infected with the Zika virus, including about 90 pregnant women, in 40 states, Washington, D.C., and 3 U.S. Territories. In New York, there have been at least 60 confirmed case; last Friday, a case was reported in Niagara County. So far, approximately 1.5 million people have contracted the virus in Brazil. Zika virus has spread to more than two dozen countries including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Saint Martin, Venezuela and others.

Previously, Schumer called for a three-point federal plan aimed at containing the Zika virus:

  • First, Schumer called on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to prioritize and increase its involvement in Zika-affected countries abroad in order to better prevent, contain and treat the virus. USAID is one of the lead government entities that works overseas to help improve global health, help societies prevent and recover from conflicts, and more. 
  • Second, Schumer called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) to focus resources to expeditiously develop a vaccine and to work alongside the private sector in doing so. Currently, there is no cure, treatment or vaccine available for Zika, which can be extremely serious to pregnant women because of possible birth defects—like microcephaly--linked to the virus.
  • Lastly, Schumer successfully called on the U.S. to push the World Health Organization (WHO) to publicly declare a health emergency. On February 1st, the WHO official declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern soon after Schumer’s push. Schumer has also called for a Zika Czar to better help fight the virus before it spreads further and more cases are brought to the United States.



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