During a press conference Friday, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio broke ranks with his party and expressed his support for spending $1.9 billion to address the Zika virus issue; however, he stressed that taxpayer money must only be spent on programs to combat the Zika virus, using the example of Hurricane Sandy relief on not how to do it.
“From the federal prospective, the president has proposed, and I support the spending of $1.9 billion to help our local and state jurisdictions address what needs to be done on this issue, Sen Rubio said.
“I had asked the president along with others that about $500 million of unspent Ebola money be repurposed for Zika. The president announced that they would do so this week. There of course remains an unallocated fund and we’ll be working towards achieving that.”
Rubio then went on to discuss the four areas that must be focused on:
“The first, of course, is the need for improvements in our diagnostics and the ability to diagnose and quickly identify who has been potentially impacted by this and so there are things we can do through the Center for Disease Control and Health and Human Services to improve the availability of diagnostics for patients, particularly at the point of treatment, at the point in a doctor’s office or quickly thereafter, so someone who may be potentially impacted by this would know that they are a carrier.
“The second is the need for vector control, or as we would call, mosquito control. And that’s an ongoing issue, and we’ve talked about it, we are not going to get rid of mosquitos. They been here before mankind walked the Earth, and they’ll be here for a long time. So we’re not going to wipe out every mosquito in the world, but we are going to have to deal with it and there are things that we can do in government to ensure and assist with that.
“The third is, of course, the hope that we can develop a vaccine. That would be the ideal outcome. And to ensure that sufficient federal funding is going to the NIH and other agencies that are providing the basic research necessary to ultimately commercialize a vaccine so that this Zika virus can go the way of so many other issues that have impacted people throughout time.
“But I think the most important message today – there are two very important messages: the first is there is no crisis, this is an issue that we are going to confront, we want to get ahead of these issues. The best way to confront something is before it becomes a crisis, you prevent it. We know how to do this in Florida, we know how to do this in south Florida. Because we are a gateway community, any time there is an outbreak of anything from Dengue to Ebola, we’re on the front lines of it, and we take steps to address it, and we are doing that again. And I have full confidence in our local and state officials’ ability to address this issue, particularly if they’re properly resourced.
“But the other message is government can’t solve this problem all by itself. The majority of the work it will take to ensure that we can protect our people is on people. Meaning make sure that your pool is not going green and it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos. Make sure that when you’re going out, especially in the mornings and in the evenings, you’re using not just sunscreen, but you’re using mosquito repellant. Make sure that you’re protecting yourselves. Make sure that if you travel to a part of the world that’s been impacted by this that you’re being screened to ensure that you’re not a carrier so you don’t infect a partner, or perhaps and most certainly if you’re pregnant, make sure that you are going to your practitioner and getting the advice that you need about future travel, and so forth. I think a lot of this is about going to people and saying there are simple, common sense things you can do not just to protect yourself from Zika, but to protect yourself from any mosquito borne illness, which has confronted mankind forever.
“And so that’s our hope here today, to create both awareness, a sense of understanding that your local officials are involved in addressing this issue in a responsible way. And I want people to know that while I’m supportive of fully funding the president’s initiative on this, I want to make sure that the money, when appropriated, will be appropriately spent on what we’re trying to address here.”
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