Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer detailed the latest Zika virus numbers, which show Long Island has the most confirmed cases in New York State, outside of New York City. Schumer said Congress is about to go on summer recess and that it is irresponsible to go on recess without a real funding bill to combat the Zika virus now. Schumer railed against letting a Zika funding bill wait until mid-September, and said inaction on Zika could be a public health disaster for Long Island residents, tourists and health care providers who have worked hard to prepare for the virus.

Image/Donkey Hotey
Image/Donkey Hotey

Schumer also said it is critical for Congress to pass the $1.9 billion in emergency funding that is needed to fight the Zika spread. With almost 300 confirmed Zika cases in New York City and Long Island, Schumer said new cases are expected to increase this summer. Schumer argued that hospitals, medical providers and the overall public health systems needs immediate access to fed funds to protect the public, including pregnant mothers and their children, before it is too late.

“With the Senate set to recess for the summer months, and with many women and families across New York State begging for action before this deadly virus spreads further, it is critical now more than ever that Congress work together to green-light this $1.9 billion in emergency funding. We need to get this done as soon as possible so that we can help stem the spread of Zika,” said Schumer. “Simply put, anyone repellent to this emergency funding plan isn’t serious about beating Zika. When it comes to fighting this epidemic, a stitch in time will save nine – so I am urging my colleagues to pass this bill and make sure emergency funding is delivered before it is too late.”

Standing at Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), Schumer was joined by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Larry Eisenstein and NUMC CEO Victor Politi.

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano stated, “With the Zika virus spreading to citizens who travel overseas, Federal funds are needed now to treat patients who return home infected, accelerate the development of a vaccine and assist local governments in expanding mosquito control programs. I thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and commitment to public health.”

Schumer noted that this week is the last summer week before Congress is set to adjourn through the beginning of September. With this long recess ahead, Schumer said it is high-time Congress pass a real emergency funding bill to help the U.S. combat the Zika virus. Specifically, Schumer is pushing legislation and the President’s emergency funding request of $1.9 billion, which would help prevent the spread of the Zika epidemic.

Schumer said these funds are critical in the fight against Zika, and that Congress must deliver this funding before more cases are brought to the United States come mosquito season. The Senator said the Senate’s upcoming recess underscores the need to get this done immediately, as Zika could infect even more New York State residents over the summer without the help of this $1.9 billion to curb its spread.

President Obama’s supplemental emergency funding request – also part of legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson [D-FL] – includes a comprehensive response to the Zika virus. Specifically, these emergency federal funds would allow the U.S. to take critical steps in the response to Zika at home and abroad. For instance, the plan would improve vector control, expand access to family planning and contraceptives, and accelerate efforts to developing a vaccine. There is currently no treatment or vaccine available for Zika. Funds could be used to provide for mosquito control programs across the country. Mosquito control programs typically involve surveillance methods, source reduction methods and other control strategies. Additionally, the funds would help perfect diagnostic tools and testing.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person who has already been infected by the virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito species has spread most of the cases; these types of mosquitoes have been found in Florida and Hawaii. The Asian Tiger mosquito is also known to transmit the virus; these types of mosquitoes have been found in New York and Chicago.

Common symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. However, the virus may cause more serious risks to those who are pregnant. Earlier this year, the CDC confirmed that the Zika virus can cause microcephaly and other birth defects.  Microcephaly is a rare condition in which the baby’s head is abnormally small and can have brain damage. Thousands of infants in Brazil have already been born with microcephaly since last spring. So far, approximately 1.5 million people have contracted the virus in Brazil. Zika virus has spread to more than two dozen countries including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Saint Martin, Venezuela and others.