Combating a Crisis

President Obama requests emergency funding to control the Zika virus.

President Obama Requests Emergency Funding To Control The Zika Virus

Zika virus has been a growing international health problem as 26 countries and territories in the Americas have reported cases of local transmission of the virus. Brazil, which has been the epicenter of this recent spread of the Zika virus, reported its first case in May 2015. Since then, the virus has spread through active transmission to the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories in warmer areas. However, it is important to note that there have been no cases of people being infected by local mosquito bites in the United States. But, some travelers have returned with Zika infections from affected countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Since December 2015, there have been 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers.

Despite the lack of mosquito-caused Zika cases in the United States, officials worry that with warmer temperatures in spring and summer will bring a larger mosquito population. This means officials must be prepared to address possible local transmission in the United States. And scientists worry that warming temperatures due to climate change will prolong the outbreaks mosquito-borne viruses such as the Zika virus.

The Zika virus outbreak is particularly alarming because of its adverse impact on pregnant women and their unborn children. The virus has been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly, which is when babies are born with smaller heads and underdeveloped brains. In Brazil, where around 1.5 million people have the Zika virus, there have been more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly.

Due to shocking microcephaly cases associated with the Zika virus, several countries have asked women to refrain from getting pregnant. Yet many of the countries that are most impacted by the virus have some of the strictest abortion laws. In Brazil, the Zika virus is particularly impacting low-income communities, where women do not have the necessary access to information, education, contraception, or abortion services. In response to this, the United Nation has asked Zika-affected countries to provide women access to contraception and abortion services.

The Obama Administration is taking proactive steps to control the Zika virus, both at home and abroad. In his upcoming budget, President Obama is requesting $1.8 billion in emergency Zika funding to help support Zika virus readiness and response capacity, invest in vaccine research, provide Zika-affected countries with international aid, and other emergency funding. This funding will help the Administration’s on-going efforts to attempt to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and hopefully Congress will support the President’s request.

BOTTOM LINE: The Zika virus is a growing global health problem that is particularly impacting pregnant women and newborns in more than two dozen countries. Though countries have asked women to refrain from getting pregnant, some severely restrict access to birth control and abortion sources. Though there have been no cases of mosquitos transferring the virus to people in the United States, President Obama has asked Congress to authorize emergency funding to help protect people in the United States and those across the globe.

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