SUNY Upstate Recently Launched The Global Maternal Child And Pediatric Health Program, Which Will Address Health Issues Woman Face During Pregnancy – Including The Zika Virus; Researchers Are Currently Taking Aim At Finding Answers To Treating And Preventing The Virus

Emergency Fed Funding Could Be Used By SUNY Upstate To Fund Efforts To Fight & Prevent Future Zika Outbreaks

Schumer: SUNY Upstate Needs Funds To Zap Zika For Good

Standing at SUNY Upstate Medical University, in the wake of recently reported case of Zika Virus in Oneida County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today appeared in Syracuse to call for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the epidemic. Schumer said that this funding could help SUNY Upstate’s efforts to treat, prevent and understand the Zika Virus. Upstate hospitals, medical providers, and public health systems 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 so that institutions like SUNY Upstate can advance their important work to protect pregnant mothers and their children – before it’s too late.

“With so many women and families across Central New York looking for action and global health leaders like Upstate ready to assist, 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 institutions like SUNY Upstate can use their expertise to 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.”

Schumer explained that SUNY Upstate Medical University is a leader in solving serious health issues facing women and children, and is well equipped to aid in the development of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the these types of virus’. Just last week, Upstate  established The Global Maternal Child and Pediatric Health Program to address global health issues women face during pregnancy and children face during early childhood, including the Zika Virus. The program will be part of Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science (CGHATS), which already has done significant work  with mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and chikungunya. Schumer added that with the infrastructure, expertise and leadership already in place, SUNY Upstate is a perfect example of how this emergency funding could be put to use and enhance our understating of the Zika epidemic.

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 more than 60 confirmed cases in New York State. Most recently, there was one case found in Oneida County. Schumer said this proves the disease is still spreading and Congress must act to help stop it. 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 also be used to provide for mosquito control programs across the country, and in Central 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. Schumer noted that SUNY Upstate is qualified to execute many of these treatment and prevention methods, and is already contributing to the global effort to find out more about the Zzika Virus. 

Schumer was joined by Dean David B. Duggan and SUNY Upstate Medical University researchers and faculty.

“Upstate Medical University is highly supportive of Senator’ Schumer’s efforts to bring attention to the threat of emerging infectious disease, in particular the troubling advance of Zika onto US shores. Upstate, through its Center for Global Health and Translational Science is uniquely positioned to contribute to our understanding of the Zika epidemic and its prevention through vaccine and drug development. We heartily endorse the Senator’s important work to increase scientific funding for Zika research to address the threats is poses to our citizens and the global community,”said Dr. David C. Amberg, Ph.D – Vice President for Research; Research Foundations Operations Manager; Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at SUNY Upstate Medical University

“Zika Virus is an example of an infectious disease that has emerged as a global health problem creating a global health emergency.  The association of Zika Virus with birth defects and sexual transmission is in particular concerning and devastating to mothers and their infants who are born with Zika associated birth defects.  Understanding how to control this virus in its mosquito vector, preventing its spread to other countries and to the United States; protecting mothers and their infants through the development of therapeutics and vaccines against this virus, are essential efforts that require funding and support.  Senator Schumer's efforts to increase the funding to support these efforts is outstanding and key to stopping the spread of this viral infection and devastating health effects,” said Dr. Timothy P. Endy, MD, MPH - Professor of Medicine; Chief, Infectious Disease Division; Vice-Chair for Research, Department of Medicine.

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.

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; 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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