GOP lawmaker: Use Ebola funds to fight Zika

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Rep. Chris StewartChris StewartTensions rise over land in the age of Obama Overnight Energy: GOP senators push to block climate fund money GOP lawmakers hit EPA on coal, mine waste spill MORE (R-Utah) unveiled legislation on Wednesday to boost funding to research the Zika virus by giving federal agencies flexibility to use money originally allocated to combat Ebola.

According to Stewart’s office, close to half of the $2.4 billion in funding allocated by Congress in 2014 for fighting the Ebola outbreak was unused as of September. Under the provisions of his bill, agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would have the option to use some of the remaining funds for Zika virus control efforts.

Stewart noted that the upcoming Olympic Games this summer in Brazil, which is one of the Latin and South American countries facing a Zika outbreak, made containment efforts more imperative. 

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“This virus is a global health threat that requires our immediate attention,” Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said on the House floor.

The virus can cause microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and often results in severe learning disabilities. 

The World Health Organization this week declared the Zika virus outbreak is a “global emergency.”

While the virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, the CDC confirmed this week that a Zika case in Dallas County, Texas, was sexually transmitted.