As Thursday came to a close, the American public saw that no Zika funding bill, from either side of the aisle, would come to fruition as the Congress would head out for a 7-week vacation.
This drew many responses of disappointment from various medical and public health organizations:
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) representing the 2,800 local health departments working on the front lines to protect communities from emergencies like Zika is disappointed by our federal leaders’ inability to put health and safety above politics.
“By not addressing the threat now, we risk squandering our nation’s opportunity to prevent the Zika virus from gaining a foothold in the United States this summer. Local health departments are rightfully concerned because they are on the front lines of responding to this crisis. Resources are still desperately needed to launch prevention efforts and to respond to any local transmission of Zika. On behalf of families across the nation, we implore federal leaders to find a solution to enable local health departments to do what they are trained to do and protect the public’s health.” said LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH, NACCHO’s executive director.
In the same vein, the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) expressed disappointment with the U.S. Congress Thursday. The Coalition consists of the 28 largest, most urban public health departments in the country, representing approximately 1 in 6 Americans.
“The spread of Zika virus has created a public health emergency that needs to be addressed now,” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “For months Congress has failed to act, which has real consequences not only for those who are already infected but for those who are at risk – expectant mothers and their children. Without federal funding, more Americans will be needlessly infected, crucial vaccine development may be stalled, and strapped public health departments will continue to scramble to keep up, doing more with less. Protecting the American people from infectious disease is a bedrock responsibility of the federal government, and right now, Congress is failing to do its job.”
Andrew W. Gurman, M.D., President of the American Medical Association, has expressed disappointment in the failure of Congress to support the US public health response to Zika Virus:
“At a time when concerns continue to mount about the nation’s readiness to protect the public from the Zika virus, the AMA is disappointed by Congress’ failure to pass legislation before adjourning for summer recess that would provide the resources necessary for our country to respond to this looming public health crisis.
“Without ensuring there are sufficient resources available for research, prevention, control and treatment of illnesses associated with the Zika virus, the United States will be ill-equipped to deploy the kind of public health response needed to keep our citizens safe and healthy—especially since the spread of mosquito-borne illness is accelerated during the summer months.”
Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) had the following to say:
“By the time Congress returns in a couple of months, the damage to our nation from Zika will likely be irreversible. This failure to act severely hampers the full response that is greatly needed.
The crisis has already reached our shores—this week a baby was born in Texas with Zika-related microcephaly. In addition, public health officials are tracking 320 pregnant women in the continental United States with Zika infections—and there could be hundreds more who have not shown symptoms or have not been identified. In Puerto Rico alone, 2,800 people have already been confirmed to be infected, with expectations that 20 percent of the population could eventually be infected.
Without additional funding, health departments and communities are on their own. Either resources will be shifted from other pressing needs or communities will have insufficient means to perform mosquito testing, infection prevention, disease tracking and other actions.
In addition, vital research on new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments may stop. While this will undoubtedly have short-term consequences, this failure has the potential to cause drastic future problems as researchers find government an unreliable partner in supporting innovation.
Since the White House sent its request to Congress in February, TFAH has worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders in advocating for Congressional action. This coalition includes March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and many others.
Unfortunately—while Congress is on recess—the need for emergency funding will not diminish. In fact, it will increase. Congress must put politics aside and act.”
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