Here come the mosquitoes… and maybe the Zika virus:
In February, the White House asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to tackle the Zika virus and the aedes aegypti mosquito that can transmit it. Republicans on House Appropriations told the President to spend his Ebola money first. The White House took Congress up on that suggestion to the tune of $600 million. But Congress is still too busy (with what, we may ask) to craft a solution to a public health risk that requires action now. House Republicans are resisting calling an emergency an emergency, thus leaving local governments to come up with their own solutions and the rest of us to wear long sleeves and dump standing water out of our buckets and birdbaths.
Let’s review the harm the Zika virus can do:
In recent weeks, officials’ concerns about Zika have been amplified by a steady stream of unsettling discoveries about the virus’s reach and effects. The World Health Organization formally declared for the first time last week that Zika causes the birth defect microcephaly and the autoimmune condition Guillain-Barré syndrome, and researchers are investigating possible links between Zika and brain and spinal-cord infections. Though there haven’t been any locally acquired cases in the continental United States—and just 346 travel-related cases—the coming summer months are a concern. The virus is particularly worrisome for cities like Miami and Houston, which have high population densities and high temperatures and are home to Zika’s host mosquito, as Adrienne LaFrance reported earlier this week.
What scientists are learning about Zika “is not reassuring,” [CDC principal deputy director Anne] Schuchat said Monday. Researchers have been most concerned in recent months about Zika’s effect on pregnant women, because of the connection to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. Schuchat noted the pregnancy complications could be even broader than what officials once thought: Zika has been linked to premature births and eye conditions in infants. Women at every stage of pregnancy may be vulnerable to the virus’s effects; previously, health officials thought only first-trimester pregnancies could be affected [Nora Kelly, “The Obama Administration’s Zika Offensive,” The Atlantic, 2016.04.12].
Zika’s bad for babies, but Rep. Kristi Noem and her fellow Republicans are balking at paying to protect babies from Zika. Funny how Republicans like Noem will vote without hesitation to take money away from perceived threats to babies but can’t act with the same alacrity to spend money to protect babies from real health threats. Someone seems to have an incomplete definition of pro-life.