Yesterday, Congress took its first step in the fight against Zika when the Senate approved $1.1 billion for prevention and treatment programs to combat the mosquito-borne illness. The approval comes more than three months after President Barack Obama asked for $1.8 billion in emergency funds to combat the virus.
The $1.1 billion Senate package would direct $361 million to CDC prevention programs, $200 million to the National Institutes of Health to aid in vaccine research, and more than $50 million for Puerto Rico, which has been hit especially hard.
While the measure has been approved by the Senate, they remain at odds with House Republicans over how much money should be allocated to tackle the public health threat. Their stand-alone bill, which the House is expected to begin debating today, would provide $622 million to fight Zika through September and wouldn't add to the federal budget deficit. The House GOP bill would, instead, redirect funds they say are left over from the Ebola outbreak and other unused money at the Health and Human Services Department.
While we’ve previously discussed the importance of strengthening the cold chain ahead of the discovery of a vaccine to ensure more effective delivery to those in affected areas, it’s important to take a step back and understand what the Zika virus is and why this funding is critical. Below is a Zika 101 infographic from MPHOnline.org: