Sens. Warner, Kaine call for additional funding to respond to Zika virus

congressAs the threat of the Zika virus grows, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined colleagues in urging President Obama to devote increased funding to the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to enhance efforts to control outbreaks, counter the spread of the disease in Puerto Rico and other areas in our country where it is already present, and prevent transmission in the United States.

With at least one reported case of the Zika virus in Virginia, in today’s letter the Senators called on President Obama to ensure that the federal government is working with local and state agencies to develop strategies for protecting Virginians from the threat.

“Investing in the effort to combat the Zika virus abroad is one of the most important things we can do to prevent widespread transmission of the virus at home. The EPT Program helps developing countries prevent, detect, and control the outbreak of infectious diseases,” the Sens. wrote. “By taking action now, we can make significant progress toward mitigating the impact of Zika virus abroad and preventing the spread of the Zika virus in the United States.”

In addition to the increased funding, the letter stated, “it is also critically important that we take additional steps to respond to the ongoing outbreak and work to prevent additional cases of Zika from occurring in the United States.”

Specifically, the Senators called for:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection to immediately review whether inspections procedures at major points of entry from South America and other affected areas need to be revised in order to respond to the Zika virus;
  • If necessary, allocate resources for appropriate screening procedures at border crossings and airports;
  • Ensure that federal agencies work with state and local partners to develop a cohesive national surveillance strategy for the monitoring, identification, and reporting of any domestic Zika infections;
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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 Zika virus, microcephaly, and other public health impacts and accelerate rapid diagnostic and vaccine development.

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