On Friday, the full Senate Democratic Caucus, all 46 Senators, called on President Obama to address the Zika virus outbreak by using a coordinated interagency response plan, according to a letter sent to the President.
The letter signed by all Democratic US Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid and Asst. Leader Dick Durbin, calls for the President to take a number of new actions, including taking the Zika virus into consideration as the Administration coordinates, and allocates resources in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY16, and moves forward with the President’s upcoming FY17 budget request, or subsequent amendments. Additionally, Senate Democrats are urging President Obama to:
· Develop a coordinated interagency response plan to address the Zika virus both at home and abroad;
· Direct USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify key gaps in the international and country-level response in order to best inform our response plan and disseminate, where appropriate, at border crossings and airports;
· Ensure that federal agencies work with state and local partners to develop a cohesive national strategy for the monitoring, identification, and reporting of domestic Zika infections;
· Direct HHS and the Department of Homeland Security to develop educational materials to inform travelers regarding the risk of Zika virus exposure;
· Ramp up research efforts, including at the National Institutes of Health, to better understand the link between the Zika virus, microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and other public health impacts and accelerate rapid diagnostic and vaccine development; and
· Encourage federal agencies to coordinate, collaborate, or share information with their international counterparts.
The Zika Virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquitoes, which are also found in the United States. For most, the symptoms of Zika are mild, but when pregnant women become infected, the effects can be devastating. Zika has been linked to microcephaly in developing fetuses, which can lead to below-average head size, developmental difficulties, and brain damage.
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