Obama calls for quick Zika action from Congress after recess

President Obama is urging Republicans to make funding for fighting the Zika virus their top priority once Congress comes back into session.

“Every day that Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need — that has real-life consequences,” Obama said. “Weaker mosquito-control efforts. Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results. Delayed vaccines. It puts more Americans at risk.

{mosads}“And that’s why Republicans in Congress should treat Zika like the threat it is and make this their first order of business when they come back to Washington after Labor Day.” 

Obama said his administration could not continue combating Zika without Congress approving more money for the cause. The Health and Human Services Department shifted $81 million from other areas to fund Zika vaccine work.

“We were forced to use resources we need to keep fighting Ebola, cancer and other diseases. We took that step because we have a responsibility to the American people. But that’s not a sustainable solution,” Obama said. “And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.” 

Obama added Congress should not act frugally when battling the threat of a Zika virus epidemic on U.S. soil.

“A fraction of the funding won’t get the job done. You can’t solve a fraction of a disease. Our experts know what they’re doing. They just need the resources to do it,” he said.

Congress came to a standstill on Zika funding before the recess. The Senate approved a $1.1 billion measure, but it was rejected by House Republicans because it would require new funding. The compromise deal, in turn, was then blocked by Democrats for pulling funding from other sources and putting limits on Planned Parenthood.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday recommended all blood donations in the U.S. undergo testing for the Zika virus.

More than 10,000 people in the U.S. and its territories have tested positive for the Zika virus, which is known to cause birth defects. Globally, there are more than 50 countries where mosquitos are spreading the sickness.

Public health officials have struggled to control the spread of the virus, in part because it can be transmitted between people, not just by mosquito bites.

Men can spread the illness through several months after infection, and women can spread it for several weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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