Senate to hold hearing on Zika virus

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The Senate Health Committee is planning to hold a hearing on the Zika virus amid increasing concern from lawmakers about a potential U.S. outbreak.  

“Senator [Patty] Murray and I will very soon hold a hearing to gain a better understanding of how the Congress can support efforts to prevent further spread of the virus and protect families from being affected,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the panel, said in a statement. 
{mosads}He added that he is working with agencies monitoring the virus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Alexander’s comments come as Murray (D-Wash.) raised concerns Friday about the health risks from the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects. 
In a letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Murray said it is “imperative” that HHS be able to coordinate the public response across governments, including with other countries, and accelerate its work on diagnosing and treating the virus. 
She added that while Zika exposure has been concentrated in Central and South America, it will likely “spread to all countries and territories … including the United States” that have the mosquito that transmits the virus. 
“I urge you to ensure HHS and its agencies are doing everything possible to ensure a robust and timely public health response and ask that you make me aware of any additional tools or resources needed to bolster your critical effort,” Murray added. 
She separately sent a letter to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics urging them to continue to work with the federal government on the virus. 
Murray’s is the latest in a growing number of letters from lawmakers pressing the administration to make sure it is prepared to handle the virus’s spread.
While the CDC has warned pregnant women against traveling to Central and South America, administration officials have suggested that a widespread outbreak in the United States is unlikely. 
Tags Lamar Alexander Patty Murray Zika virus

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