Officials Seek Funds To Fight Zika Virus

By Andrew Wroblewski

awroblewski@longislandergroup.com

Rep. Steve Israel holds a container of mosquito larvae during a press conference Monday that saw state, county and town officials urge Congress for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitos. Israel, right-center, is pictured from left with Tom Iwanejko, chief environmental analyst for vector control at the Suffolk Department of Public Works; James Tomarken, M.D., Suffolk health commissioner; and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone. Photo/Office of Rep. Steve Israel

Rep. Steve Israel holds a container of mosquito larvae during a press conference Monday that saw state, county and town officials urge Congress for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitos. Israel, right-center, is pictured from left with Tom Iwanejko, chief environmental analyst for vector control at the Suffolk Department of Public Works; James Tomarken, M.D., Suffolk health commissioner; and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone. Photo/Office of Rep. Steve Israel

With mosquito season looming, state, Suffolk and Huntington town officials have asked Congress to pass an emergency funding package that will provide New York with the adequate resources it needs to combat the Zika virus. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, has been confirmed in 114 across the state, the highest total in any state in the country.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone joined Suffolk County health experts and local elected officials on Monday to ask for the funding.

According to Israel’s office, last week the House of Representatives passed a bill allocating only $622 million in funding to last through September – a third of the $1.9 billion that what was requested by President Barrack Obama and administration health experts. The Senate passed $1.1 billion in Zika funding, which is $800 million below the President Obama’s request of $1.9 billion. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate will now go to conference to negotiate a final funding level before sending the bill to the President.

“The Zika virus is not an issue that we can afford to play politics with,” Israel said. “This Republican-led Congress needs to do its job and take swift action to pass funding at levels that will ensure New York has the resources it needs to fight Zika head on. It’s not a matter of if the virus reaches New York – it’s already here. And we need a robust response to protect New York families.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are 1,376 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the United States and its territories, including 279 cases in pregnant women.

According to the CDC, Zika virus infections can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, which causes a baby’s head to be smaller than expected. Common symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or red eyes. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

 New York City has reported 86 cases of the Zika virus, including 14 women who were pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Ahead of mosquito season, the CDC announced last month that the two mosquito species capable of carrying the Zika virus are now in 30 states and have been found in cities as far north as San Francisco, Kansas City and New York City.

Bellone reinforced Israel’s call for funding, adding that recent outbreaks in South America, Central American and the Caribbean could lead to an increase in the number of Zika cases among travelers who visit those areas and return to U.S. soil.

“We need adequate funding to ensure we have all the tools in our arsenal to combat the spread of the Zika virus,” Bellone said.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone also reinforced Israel. He said, “Treating reported Zika virus cases, working on a possible vaccine and educating the public about its symptoms and precautionary measures are not political issues and they are not regional issues.”