Senator Calls for a Zika Czar

Does the US need a "Zika Czar?" New York's Sen. Charles Schumer (D) thinks so.

Does the US need a "Zika Czar?"

New York's Sen. Charles Schumer (D) thinks so.

In a news conference Friday in Manhattan, Schumer said the White House should " appoint a ‘Zika czar’ to coordinate the US response to the mosquito-borne virus that is being blamed for serious birth defects.”

The action is needed to “build a firewall against Zika,” Schumer said. He added that the position should be filled before the start of mosquito season to control the spread of the virus.

According to New York City health officials, some mosquitos breed year-round, but the city considers April through October as prime mosquito season.

In warmer climates, such as southern Florida, mosquitoes are a problem all year, raising concerns that Zika could become endemic in those regions.

The White House has proposed spending $1.8 million on Zika research and prevention, an announcement made Feb. 8.

If the money is approved by Congress, a Zika Czar might oversee how that money was spent.

There is a precedent.

During peak Ebola concerns, on Oct 22, 2014, President Obama appointed Ronald Klain, former chief of staff to Joseph Biden, as the “Ebola response coordinator,” immediately known as the Ebola Czar.

The post was abolished Feb. 15, 2015.

According to news accounts when Klain stepped down , “It was never quite clear what [Klain] did” as czar, other than reassure the public that Ebola was not something to worry about.

Schumer says appointing a Zika czar would direct and coordinate public health efforts undertaken by state and local officials, NGOs, and foreign governments similar to what was done for Ebola.

The czar should work to lead prevention, response, and treatment strategies to strengthen the US against the outbreak, he said.

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