Last week I traveled to the Middlesex County Mosquito Extermination Commission in Edison, NJ. There I heard from local and state officials, physicians and scientists, and those charged with regulating the mosquito population about the importance of combating the growing Zika crisis.
Nearly 2,000 Americans have contracted Zika in the United States with 80 of those cases now in New Jersey. The World Health Organization has declared Zika a global public health emergency, and the United States must meet this threat head on.
The virus is transmitted primarily by mosquitos, and while only one-in-five people infected show symptoms, the health risks can be severe. When the virus infects pregnant women, mother-to-child transmission can lead to miscarriage or certain severe birth defects, including microcephaly, in which the child is born with an abnormally small head and brain.
Though Zika was discovered in 1947, until recently it had remained mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere, and much about the virus is still unknown. To quickly respond to the emerging threat to the United States, the Obama administration has requested $1.9 billion in funding to provide treatment to those impacted and develop diagnostic testing and a vaccine. I fought to make sure these funds were allocated, but was deeply disappointed when House Republicans last month chose to begin one of the longest recesses in American history rather than address the crisis.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently warned that with a promising study underway at the National Institutes of Health, the world’s first Zika vaccine could be delayed if Congress does not provide funding in the coming weeks. The threat posed by Zika is too significant to be risked by a lack of urgency or political gamesmanship. I will continue to do everything within my power to bring about a vote to allocate the necessary funds as soon as possible.
If you have a moment, please respond to this email or contact my office to share your thoughts on the Zika crisis and what you think should be done about it. It is my job to represent you and I want to make sure that your views are taken into account while I’m fighting on your behalf.
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.