Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard voted yesterday for S. 2512, the Adding Zika Virus to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act, a bill that passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Aedes aegypti mosquito feeding on a human host/CDC
Aedes aegypti mosquito feeding on a human host/CDC

The bill, which passed in the Senate last month, would encourage the development of vaccines and treatments against the Zika Virus by adding it to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Priority Review Voucher Program. The legislation now heads to the President for approval.

Related: Marco Rubio supports $1.9 billion Zika funding proposal 

“Earlier this year, the CDC raised its emergency level to Level 1 status in response to the Zika Virus, something that has only been done three times in the past—during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Just yesterday, the CDC confirmed that the effects of the Zika Virus are even more harmful to human health than they originally suspected, and that the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the Zika Virus, as well as dengue fever, are already present in 30 states, including Hawaiʻi. Still, we have yet to adequately respond to this rapidly rising threat.

“These dangerous vector mosquitoes have the potential to continue spreading diseases like the Zika Virus and dengue fever very rapidly. In just over 3 months, there have been 346 cases of the Zika Virus in the United States, and over the past 6 months, there have been 263 cases of dengue fever in Hawaiʻi alone. We must expedite the research and development needed to find an effective treatment, or even a potential cure to these mosquito-borne diseases. Today’s vote to accelerate the development of Zika Virus vaccines and treatments is one step toward achieving that objective. At a practical level, we must bring together federal, state, and local governments, private sector partners, and other key stakeholders to get rid of this mosquito and contain the outbreaks we already have, and prevent future spread.”

The legislation was introduced by Sen Al Franken in February and passed the Senate on Mar 17.