Emergency Zika Response Has a $1.8 Billion Price Tag

In the wake of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring a global public health emergency regarding the Zika virus, President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $1.8 billion for ongoing efforts.

In the wake of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring a global public health emergency regarding the Zika virus, President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $1.8 billion for ongoing efforts.

“Since late last year, the Administration has been aggressively working to combat Zika, a virus primarily spread by mosquitoes that has recently been linked to birth defects and other concerning health outcomes,” the White House statement began on February 8.

The majority of Zika diagnoses in the United States have been to patients who traveled to infected countries and returned with the virus. There has yet to be local transmission via Aedes aegpyti mosquito, but the first sexually transmitted case was confirmed in Texas. On February 3, the count of infected regions increased once again from 24 to 26 with the addition of Jamaica and Tonga.

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The emergency funding would go towards preparation and response efforts both nationally and internationally. There are neither a preventive vaccine nor specific treatment for Zika, so the funds would help those initiatives as well. The White House report specified exactly where the $1.8 billion would go:

  • US Agency for International Development: $335 million
  • US Department of State: $41 million
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): $1.48 billion (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): $828 million; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: $250 million; Vaccine Research and Diagnostic Development & Procurement: $200 million; and Other HHS Response Activities: $210 million)

Although not scientifically proven, there is a very strong correlation between the Zika virus and microcephaly — a condition where children are born with smaller-than-normal brains and heads. Several country officials have advised women to avoid pregnancy for up to two years and multiple airline companies are offering refunds to those who were supposed to travel to Central or South America.

An official proposal to Congress for the emergency funding has yet to be submitted, but the Administration plans to do so soon.

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