U.S. out of Zika war cash, CDC says

671 preg­nant women in U.S. af­fected so far

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By An­drew Tay­lor

WASH­ING­TON — The head of the U.S. govern­ment’s fight against the Zika virus said that “we are now essen­tially out of money” and warned that the coun­try is “about to see a bunch of kids born with mi­cro­cephaly” in the com­ing months.

Fri­day’s warn­ing from Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion Direc­tor Thomas Frieden came as law­mak­ers start to sort out a stop­gap govern­ment fund­ing bill that is be­ing tar­geted to also carry long-de­layed money to bat­tle Zika.

Zika is spread­ing more widely in the U.S. and can not only cause mi­cro­cephaly — in which ba­bies are born with grave brain de­fects — but other prob­lems that the coun­try will likely face for decades, Frieden said. So far, 671 preg­nant women in the states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have the virus, lead­ing to the birth of 17 ba­bies with mi­cro­cephaly.

Frieden said fund­ing de­lays have slowed long-term stud­ies of the dis­ease and pro­duc­tion of new tests.

“We haven’t been able to get a run­ning start” on a long-term bat­tle against Zika, he said.

Frieden added that “we don’t like to see” the use of pes­ti­cides such as Fri­day morn­ing’s spray­ing of naled in Mi­ami Beach, Fla.

But, he said, new tech­nolo­gies for the ap­pli­ca­tion of such toxic chem­i­cals are safe for hu­mans. The two lo­cal­ized mos­quito-borne out­breaks in Mi­ami are “quite dif­fi­cult to con­trol,” Flor­ida mos­quito con­trol in­spec­tor Car­los Varas re­cently checks a sam­ple of wa­ter taken from bromeli­ads.

Virus wor­ries Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Doc­tors in Puerto Rico are warn­ing that the U.S. ter­ri­tory does not have the re­sources to han­dle the fall­out of a Zika epi­demic as of­fi­cials re­ported an uptick in the num­ber of fe­tuses with mal­for­ma­tions that were car­ried by women in­fected with the virus.

The cases are among the first of what health of­fi­cials be­lieve could reach a cou­ple hun­dred next year, spark­ing con­cerns about the lack of funds and spe­cial­ists needed to care for chil­dren with se­vere birth de­fects on an is­land mired in a deep eco­nomic cri­sis.

“We are talk­ing about ba­bies that will have prob­lems with hear­ing dis­or­ders, de­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­ders,” said Dr. Na­bal Bracero, who runs a fer­til­ity clinic.

Thir­teen dead fe­tuses be­long­ing to Zika-in­fected moth­ers have been iden­ti­fied. Frieden said, adding that the type of mos­qui­toes that spread Zika “are the cock­roach of mos­qui­toes.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in Fe­bru­ary re­quested $1.9 bil­lion to fight Zika, but Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress acted slowly on the re­quest.

A Capi­tol Hill fight this sum­mer stalled the Zika aid. Repub­li­cans at­tached re­stric­tions on any of the money go­ing to af­fil­i­ates of Planned Par­ent­hood in Puerto Rico. Democrats ob­jected and blocked the $1.1 bil­lion mea­sure.

In the in­terim, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has shifted about $650 mil­lion from other ac­counts to bat­tle Zika, most of it un­used money ap­proved two years ago to fight Ebola. That money is al­most gone.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way to break the im­passe over Zika and add it to the only piece of leg­is­la­tion that has to pass Congress be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion: a stop­gap fund­ing bill to avert a govern­ment shut­down Oct. 1. Democrats and the White House have greater lever­age since their ap­proval is needed for the bill, and Repub­li­cans are sig­nal­ing they’ll likely lift the re­stric­tions on de­liv­er­ing con­tra­cep­tion, treat­ment and care through Planned Par­ent­hood.

A bi­par­ti­san con­sen­sus is emerg­ing to fund the govern­ment through mid-De­cem­ber, though some House tea party con­ser­va­tives are op­posed and want a longer du­ra­tion for the mea­sure to avert a lame duck ses­sion of Congress.

Al­most 3,000 peo­ple in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. have been found to have Zika, but the to­tal is likely far higher be­cause most peo­ple don’t show symp­toms.

ALAN DIAZ/AP

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