Sen. Dick Durbin and 23 fellow senators called on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to fund President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion plan to combat the Zika virus.
In a letter to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, the group of senators explicated the urgent need to respond to the Zika virus.
“We respectfully request that you fully fund the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 emergency supplemental request of $1.9 billion to combat the Zika virus outbreak, without undermining ongoing efforts to address the Ebola epidemic,” the letter read. “The World Health Organization projects the Zika virus could affect up to 4 million people in 2016, highlighting the urgency of a coordinated response to combat it.”
The virus typically causes mild symptoms, but the risk is far greater for pregnant women because of a possible link to a birth defect and neurological problems. Mosquito bites remain the primary vehicle for Zika transmission but sexual transmission of the virus infection is possible, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The recent Zika outbreak has spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean in recent years. In 2015, the virus reached Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, where the it has reached pandemic levels.
This year, five cases have been confirmed in Illinois.
The CDC issued a traveling warning earlier this year for those traveling to affected countries. It recommended pregnant women in any trimester consider postponing travel to the areas where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Some of the proposed funding from the emergency supplemental request would be used to address other global health priorities, like the Ebola virus.
“At the same time, the United States must continue to work with our international partners to confront a number of persistent and serious epidemics, including the Ebola virus that has caused more than 11,300 deaths since 2014,” wrote the Senators. “Dramatically reducing funding for the Ebola account now, in order to fund efforts against this new threat, would increase health risks worldwide while also sending a troubling message about the U.S. commitment to ending the current epidemic and preparing for future outbreaks.”
Aside from Durbin, the group includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among others.