Schumer: Fight To Prevent Zika Virus Is Dramatically Underfunded; Upstate NY Health Officials & Medical Providers Need Immediate Federal Funding

 Senator Says $1.9 Billion In Emergency Fed Funding Is Vital To Preventing The Spread Of Zika Virus In Upstate NY

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today held a conference call with reporters to demand Congress pass a real funding bill to help combat the Zika virus. Schumer said that with the Senate set to recess at the end of next week through the beginning of September, it is critical, now more than ever, that Congress pass the $1.9 billion in emergency funding that is needed to fight the spread of this deadly virus. With more than 300 confirmed Zika cases in New York State, including more than 30 in Upstate NY alone, Schumer said Zika cases are only expected to increase this summer. Schumer argued that Upstate hospitals, medical providers and public health systems need immediate access to this money to protect pregnant mothers and their children before it is too late.

“With the Senate set to recess for the summer months, and with many women and families across New York State begging for action before this deadly virus spreads further, it is critical now more than ever that 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 am urging my colleagues to pass this bill and make sure emergency funding is delivered before it is too late.”

At the end of next week, Congress is set to adjourn from mid-July through the beginning of September. With this long recess ahead, Schumer said it is high-time Congress pass a real emergency funding bill to help the U.S. combat the Zika virus. Specifically, Schumer is pushing legislation and the President’s emergency funding request of $1.9 billion, which would help prevent the spread of the Zika epidemic.

Schumer said that more than 800 Americans have already contracted Zika, and there were approximately 310 confirmed cases in New York State as of June 2016. According to NY State Department of Health, in Upstate alone, there were 33 confirmed cases as of June 29, 2016. During the call, Schumer highlighted what these numbers look like by region. Schumer noted that these totals travel-associated cases, and therefore could increase throughout the summer as residents travel more frequently and could potentially spread the virus further upstate:

  • ·         In the Capital Region, there were 3 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In Central NY, there were 7 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In Western NY, there were 2 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there were 3 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In the Southern Tier, there were 2 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In the Hudson Valley, there were 16 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.
  • ·         In the North Country, there was 1 confirmed Zika cases as of June 2016.

Schumer said these numbers prove that New Yorkers are still traveling to countries with high rates of Zika and bringing it back to the state where it can still spread. Schumer said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed that Zika can be sexually transmitted and there is a 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 more cases are brought to the United States come mosquito season. The Senator said the Senate’s upcoming recess underscores the need to get this done immediately, as Zika could infect even more New York State residents over the summer without the help of this $1.9 billion to curb its spread.

President Obama’s supplemental emergency funding request – also 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. 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.

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. 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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