WIAAP Supports Zika Virus Emergency Supplemental Spending
Sunday, June 12, 2016
WIAAP has taken a strong stance of support for emergency supplemental spending for the prevention of the spread of the Zika virus.
In a letter to federal legislators, WIAAP urged swift action to pass the strongest possible emergency funding, and not at the expense of funding for other high priority public health programs.
The Zika virus has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect of the brain, in babies of mothers who contracted the virus while pregnant. Infants with microcephaly are born with small heads, which often means the brain is small and underdeveloped. This birth defect has been linked to seizures, developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, as well as other lifelong health consequences.
Thousands of infants have been born in South and Central America over the past year with microcephaly caused by the Zika virus, and just last week a baby was born in New Jersey to a mother who had travelled to Central America. The CDC is monitoring 195 pregnant women in the United States and 146 pregnant women in the U.S. territories with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection. Thus far, all cases in the United States have come from Americans travelling or through sexual transmission from someone who has travelled to a Zika-endemic country. The summer and mosquito season threatens local transmission of the virus, placing more pregnant women at risk of acquiring Zika and passing it on to their babies.
It has been four months since President Barack Obama first requested emergency spending from Congress to help combat the spread of the Zika virus. A robust emergency spending package can help educate the public about how to protect themselves from Zika, expand vector and mosquito control to reduce the mosquito population, and accelerate research to speed up Zika vaccine development, as well as to learn better how the virus works. Supplemental funding will assist the CDC and USAID in efforts to contain the Zika virus and ensure that there are resources for surveillance, vector control and services for affected pregnant women and children.
Taking action now may slow dramatically the spread of Zika, giving scientists time to develop and test a vaccine. Without action, we risk allowing permanent birth defects to affect our nation’s newborns. In addition to the human toll on children and families, the CDC estimates that the average lifetime cost of caring for each child born with microcephaly could exceed $10 million per child. For hard-hit communities, an epidemic of severe birth defects could quickly overwhelm health care and social services systems, and put extreme pressure on educational and other institutions.
Ensuring children and families are safe from the Zika virus is a critical way to protect their health. There is only a brief window of opportunity to hold back the virus and avert a wave of preventable birth defects.