Congress Plans To Spend $1.1 Billion Fighting Zika Virus

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Senate leadership reached an agreement Thursday to spend $1.1 billion in emergency funding to battle the mosquito-carried Zika virus.

The new Senate agreement will send $361 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for domestic Zika response, most of which would spent on additional mosquito control and rapid response teams. Another $200 million will be sent to fund vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health, while an additional $248 million would go to other foreign aid to countries afflicted by Zika. The rest of the money would go to various other agencies to fight Zika. Congress will provide the money without cutting other government spending.

Congress approved far less spending than President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request for Zika funding, leaving some senior Senate Democrats unhappy. Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid said in a statement that he may try to block the bill as the $1.1 billion is a “paltry Band-Aid” and “not enough, especially when the amount will likely be reduced further by House Republicans.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote on the measure for next week.

There are currently 503 cases of Zika confirmed in the continental U.S. as well as another 701 in American territories, according to the CDC. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.

Zika virus infections in pregnant women are directly linked to fetal deaths and devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, according to the CDC. Laboratory studies have also confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.

study published in March by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito could spread as far north as New York City this summer if the weather is warmer than average.

The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives in tropical climates. Zika likely won’t spread as prolifically in the U.S. as it has in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the high number of Americans living and working behind air-conditioned doors. The study also found that small numbers of the mosquitoes can survive in much of North America during spring and fall when temperatures cool.

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