According to The New York Times, Congress faced a request on Monday for $1.8 billion from President Obama to fight the Zika virus, which has spread throughout South and Central America.
The Zika virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, poses a threat specifically to pregnant women. Brazil, a country that has been hit particularly hard by the virus, has a reported a significant increase in the amount of babies with a condition called microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.
During an interview with CBS This Morning, the president stated that the money would go towards programs focused on controlling mosquitoes, researching vaccines, and implementing public education programs, especially for pregnant women.
As with the Ebola outbreak in Africa two years ago, Congress has been working hard to respond to the Zika crisis while not catalyzing a panic. During the Ebola virus, the administration held that there was little risk of the virus spreading to the States — until a few cases actually did.So far, there have been no documented cases of Zika being transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States. There have been 50 confirmed cases of the virus in people who have traveled to infected countries and returned to the U.S.
Obama received a letter from State Democrats on Friday, urging him to develop a multifront strategy for battling Zika, including a range of government agencies. Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, states that “It is critical that we approve the funds immediately and give our government the resources it needs to fight the virus.”
Reid also stated that part of our nation’s response to the crisis should include increasing access to contraception for women — especially significant since Latin America has some of the world’s strictest abortion laws.
Mosquito borne disease have been known to cause a wide range of health defects. Malaria and dengue have taken millions of lives every year in impoverished nations.
The danger posed by the Zika virus brings to mind other common pests which could be the vectors for harmful disease. For instance, as the bed bug crisis escalates, so does fear that they could be more than just a nuisance. Approximately 99.6% of pest professionals have treated bed bugs in the past year; should they come to carry a transmittable disease, the results would be catastrophic.
Vector-borne diseases are indeed already prevalent in the United States. Millions of people suffer from West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, Babesiosis, among others. There is an obvious fear that Zika infected mosquitoes will infiltrate the American mosquito population.
On CNS News, Angela Logomasini reports that precautionary measures can be taken by limiting breeding grounds for these diseases. This is accomplished by monitoring still water environments and eliminating unnecessary ones (like dirty bird baths) and by reducing the use of insecticides.