U.S. out of Zika war cash, CDC says
671 pregnant women in U.S. affected so far
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.