Pallone Calls for Immediate Funding to Combat Zika Crisis
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ– Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ 06), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called for immediate funding to address the growing Zika crisis. At the Middlesex County Mosquito Extermination Commission in Edison NJ, Pallone criticized House Republicans for failing to provide the $1.9 billion in funds requested by President Obama to respond to the Zika threat and playing politics with an urgent public health issue. Last month, House Republicans began one of the longest recesses in American history rather than address the crisis.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently warned that the world’s first Zika virus vaccine will likely be delayed if Congress does not provide funding in the coming weeks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expected to exhaust the $47 million funding that was redirected toward the development of a Zika vaccine, which had been allocated for combatting Ebola, by the end of the month.
“Zika represents a serious threat to global health and security, and we must address that threat decisively, not play politics,” said Pallone. “We need to give agencies including the CDC and NIH the resources they need to fully monitor the ongoing spread of this virus and find effective ways to combat it. Local, County and State governments are making enormous contributions under difficult circumstances, but they help in dealing with an international threat. We cannot afford for House Republicans to abdicate their responsibility to the American people and continue underfunding efforts to combat the Zika virus.”
When Zika infects pregnant women, mother-to-child transmission can lead to miscarriage or certain birth defects, including microcephaly, in which a child is born with an abnormally small head and brain. The Zika virus is spreading explosively through the Americas and New Jersey. Nearly 2,000 Americans have contracted Zika in the United States with 80 of those cases now in New Jersey. New Jersey is an extremely diverse state where travel to countries in Central and South America is common place, leaving it more susceptible to the virus. Recently, the first cases of Zika being transmitted in the continental United States by mosquitos were reported in Florida.
The proposed funding from the Obama administration would help speed the development of a vaccine, allow people – especially pregnant women – to more easily get tested and get a prompt result, and ensure that states and communities have the resources they need to fight the mosquito that carries this virus. House Republicans have offered significantly less financial support to combat Zika and have only offered funds to be taken away from other urgent public health needs such as the Ebola crisis.
Other attendees voicing support for Zika funding at the event were State Senator Patrick Diegnan; Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios; Dr. Colin O’Reilly, Chief of Inpatient Services and Medical Director of Long Term Care, Children’s Specialized Hospital; Dr. Isik Unlu – Superintendent, Mercer County Mosquito Control, Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology; Dr. Jay Elliott, Director of Heath, Edison township; Deepak Matadha, PhD, Superintendent M.E., Middlesex County Mosquito Extermination Commission.