A recent myMotherlode.com poll referenced a request from the Obama administration for $1.8 billion to fund efforts to limit the spread of the Zika virus. The virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes and has recently been linked to birth defects, specifically microcephaly the medical term for a child born with an abnormally small head. Fourty-two percent of the votes on our informal poll said $1.8 billion was too much, 41 percent didn’t know, 11 percent thought it was enough and 6 percent said it is not enough.
The Obama administration notes it has been “aggressively working to combat Zika since late last year.” The virus is now in 26 countries and territories in the Americas, including Puerto Rico, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Zika has not been transmitted by mosquitoes within the continental United States yet, but 50 Americans returned to the continental U.S. with confirmed infections between December 2015 and February 5, 2016. The requested emergency congressional funding would go to both domestic and international efforts as detailed below:
In brief the $1.8 billion is requested immediately as the peak mosquito season approaches. The Obama administration says the funds are to “build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus, such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics; educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and support for low-income pregnant women, and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission.”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – $828 million.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – $250 million. One year temporary increase in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to support health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus and for children with microcephaly, and other health care costs. (Unlike States, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding is capped)
- Vaccine Research and Diagnostic Development & Procurement – $200 million.
- Other HHS Response Activities – $210 million. Establish a new Urgent and Emerging Threat Fund, support Puerto Rico in preventing, screening, and treating the Zika virus.
- U.S. Agency for International Development – $335 million in support affected countries’ ability to control mosquitoes and the transmission of the virus; support maternal health; expand public education on prevention and response; and create new incentives for the development of vaccines and diagnostics. Provide flexibility in the use of remaining USAID Ebola funds. Activities would focus particularly on South America, Central America, the Caribbean.
- U.S. Department of State – $41 million in support for U.S. citizens in affected countries, medical support for State Department employees in affected countries, public diplomacy, communications, and other operations activities. Support of the Pan American Health Organization to minimize and reduce spreading Zika. Support for UNICEF’s Zika response efforts in Brazil with equipment and specialized training.
For more information on the Zika virus and CDC guidance about how Americans can protect themselves, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.