Has Congress screwed America on Zika?

Has Congress screwed America on Zika?

The U.S. will spend $1.1 billion on Zika virus prevention, but one agency argues that Congress hasn't given them enough to succeed.

The United States will spend more than a billion dollars just awarded by Congress on fighting the Zika virus, but warned that it’s not enough money and too late to be as effective as it could be — and it’s all thanks to Congress refusing to act, one U.S. government agency is claiming.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said that officials didn’t wait for legislation “because the threat was too great,” according to a CNN report. “We redirected hundreds of millions of dollars from other vital priorities to fund vector control activities and vaccine and diagnostic research and development.”

Unfortunately, that money came from other institutes, specifically ones that were investigating cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental health, and it’s a critical loss of money for those agencies, and they won’t be getting that money back anytime soon.

President Obama had asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight Zika in February, but the request became logjammed on Capitol Hill. It took Zika’s arrival in the United States — in the Miami area — before Congress even allocated the $1.1 billion. But Burwell said it’s not enough: “There is a reason that we asked for the 1.9 billion.”

Outside companies were ready to work to bring a vaccine or rapid diagnostic test to the market, but manufacturers walked away from negotiations because there was no indication from Congress that they would provide the money. That has placed the U.S. government behind on developing these tools.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to fight active infestations in Florida and Puerto Rico of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has been responsible for spreading Zika. The CDC has developed test kits and distributed them to U.S. states and about 100 countries worldwide.

“We will continue and extend our work, such as sending emergency response teams to partner with states,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden according to the CNN report. “And we are asking for research proposals on how to improve how we diagnose Zika, both short- and long-term, and how we control mosquitoes.”

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