Playing politics with Zika funding puts Americans at risk
© Greg Nash

Earlier this year, President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight Zika and Congress has yet to act. Instead of funding measures that could have helped stop the spread of Zika, congressional leaders sat on their hands, unable to agree on a funding package. 

While Congress continues to do nothing, more expectant mothers across the country are put at risk. Congress must act quickly before the problems caused by Zika grow exponentially. A pregnant woman infected with the Zika virus is at higher risk of delivering a child with microcephaly – a debilitating brain deformity. According to a special report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), babies born with microcephaly must now live with a range of catastrophic problems including small heads, seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems. For the child and their family, the result is a life of heartache and everyday challenges that no person should have to endure.

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Unless Congress takes action, the Zika threat will continue to be real and imminent. In Puerto Rico, more than 14,000 Zika cases have been reported as of August, and over 1,200 of these reported cases involve pregnant women. The CDC predicts that an estimated 5,900 to 10,300 pregnant women will be infected with Zika by the close of the year; and of those pregnant women, an estimated 100 to 270 babies born to Zika-positive pregnant woman may be born with microcephaly. That means 100 to 270 babies that will have to deal with major life long, debilitating physical and mental health issues. The threat has even arrived to the mainland where the first transmitted cases in the country have been documented in Miami, Florida.  However, Miami will not be the only city as at risk, if action is not taken. Major cities north of Miami are well within the Zika crosshairs.

The solution is within reach and all Congress needs to do is their job. With each passing day of inaction, safety measures that could stop the virus from spreading are not taken and more Americans are being put at unnecessary risk.  The sad irony is that many of those playing politics with Zika funding are the same congressional leaders who purport to care for the health of the unborn. If ever there was a time to put safety before politics--it is now. LULAC urges Congress to do the job that the American people elected them do and vote on legislation that will fund measures to protect vulnerable Americans from Zika threats.

Wilkes is the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which advocates for the political, economic and educational rights of Hispanic Americas. Follow him on Twitter @BrentWilkes. Follow LULAC on Twitter @LULAC


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