Lawmakers return to Washington with urgent message from health officials to fund Zika prevention

file photo

file photo

WASHINGTON – As Congress heads back to work Tuesday, lawmakers will be faced with a dire warning from health officials.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said funding to help fight the Zika virus is nearly gone.

“That means we’re having to make really difficult choices,” Dr. Tom Friden, the director of the agency, said in an interview with CBS News. “We’re having to not invest in some of the longer-term things that are so important.”

If Congress doesn’t act fast, no money will be available to fight a new outbreak anywhere in the United States, including efforts to prevent an outbreak in Indiana.

“I think at the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats want the same thing,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) said. “But there is a degree of posturing that takes place on both sides.”

Senate Democrats blocked a $1.1 billion funding package earlier this year, approved by the U.S. House, because it excluded funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Senate could vote again as early as Tuesday on a funding package.
In Indiana, state health officials said 34 cases of Zika have been confirmed. All of those, though, have been acquired outside of the United States.

Indiana has received more than $3.5 million in federal funding, part of the money that’s now nearly gone to fund research and prevention nationwide.

“Even though the risk of local transmission is low, we still need to have the infrastructure in place to detect cases of microcephaly,” Jennifer Brown said in a recent interview, the state public health veterinarian.

Public health officials said funding Zika is urgent. Otherwise the CDC said other critical programs will be cut.

Carson, who appeared Sunday on IN Focus, said he will bring that message to Washington this week.

“We need a clean Zika bill that deals with the issues,” he said. “And I think my Republican colleagues are on board.”