Source: Queens Gazette
“Only a few days ago I returned from a Congressional Delegation trip to countries in Africa that have been affected by this disease,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “I met with mothers whose children were born with microcephaly – a birth defect caused by the Zika virus. It was truly heartbreaking, and I am appalled that Congress is not doing more to protect our mothers and babies from this disease. Although public health experts do not expect that the U.S. mainland will see the kind of widespread outbreaks that are happening in Brazil or Puerto Rico, that does not mean we can sit by complacently and hope for the best. We must put adequate resources toward combatting this virus to develop a vaccine and enable states to take precautions like the ones that have been taken here in New York City. We cannot afford to play politics with the health of the American people. It is time for Congressional leadership to act – and act responsibly.”
“New York City is deeply proud of our aggressive and comprehensive Zika response,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Though the mosquito carrying Zika has not been identified here, nearly a quarter of all positive cases in the continental United States are in New York. As a global city, we must continue to act aggressively with the full support of our federal government. Leaders like Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney have answered this call, and we call on her colleagues to as well.”
“As a Senior Member of the Appropriations committee appointed to the Zika conference committee, I am fighting to fully fund the President’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to address the Zika crisis,” said Congressman Jose Serrano. “Republicans in Congress have failed the American people by preventing an adequate funding bill from being debated and passed. Congress can and must do more to provide adequate levels of funding to ensure this virus does not spread further. It’s time Congress take the lead as we did during other natural disaster and public health crises.”
Maloney explained that in February, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding. Instead, the Republicans put forth a measure that would have allocated $1.1 billion in funding for research that included a “poison pill” rider, banning funding for Planned Parenthood and dramatically limiting access to contraception and family planning services for women both domestically and abroad. As Zika is a disease that can be transmitted sexually and can cause extremely harmful birth defects, this kind of restriction severely limits our ability to fight the disease. Additionally, the proposal offset the majority of the cost by taking money from other critical public health funds. This led to a deadlock, and currently Congress has failed to approve any new funding to combat the virus. Rep. Maloney has joined nearly every Democrat in Congress on a discharge petition to bring a bill to the floor that would allocate $1.9 billion to address this public health crisis.
Maloney further stated, as a stopgap, in April the Administration shifted $589 million in Ebola funding to the Zika effort, with two-thirds of that funding for domestic Zika response and preparedness activities. That money has started to run out, and in response last week the Administration moved another $81 million from biomedical research and anti-poverty programs to fund the development of Zika vaccines. This is not a long-term plan, as HHS Secretary Burwell has said that this funding will run out by the end of September, and is detrimental to those programs whose funds are being raided.
Latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that there have been 1,962 cases of Zika in U.S. states and District of Columbia with 411 of those confirmed in NYC. This number includes 510 pregnant women, 48 of whom are in NYC. There have been at least 16 babies born in the U.S. with Zika-related microcephaly. The first cases of local transmission of the virus from mosquitoes in the U.S. were recently reported in Florida. Although the kind of mosquitoes that are most likely to carry Zika are limited to certain areas of the country, it is still of the utmost importance that we remain vigilant. The symptoms for most people may be mild—fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes— but the complications for pregnant women and their babies can be severe as the virus can cause the loss of early pregnancies or birth defects, such as microcephaly.
On August 15 Congresswoman Maloney returned from a Congressional Delegation trip to Africa – specifically Cabo Verde, Senegal, Liberia, and Nigeria – where she met mothers of babies born with microcephaly. Seeing firsthand the devastating effects that Zika can have, Maloney was determined to continue fighting for funding in Congress.
The NYC Department of Health has been taking an active role in protecting New Yorkers from contracting the Zika virus. Mayor de Blasio implemented a three year plan across all five boroughs to protect New Yorkers from the virus. The plan focuses on three areas: Clinical services – including increased human testing, increased mosquito surveillance, and care management for women; mosquito control; and public awareness. More information about the Zika virus, including latest number of cases, facts about the disease, travel warnings, countries affected, and mosquito prevention tips, can be found on the City’s Health Department website.