With alarm growing last February over the spread of the Zika virus and possible links to birth defects, President Barack Obama sent a request to Capitol Hill for $1.9 billion in new funds to prepare for and respond to the public health threat.

Now that scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week have concluded that Zika does, in fact, cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, the urgency for emergency supplemental funding is intensifying.

“The science is in and we now know that the Zika virus poses a serious risk to developing fetuses,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA, in a news release Thursday. “There is no time for delay.”

“The science is in. … There is no time for delay.” — Georges C. Benjamin, MD

To date, no new funding has been approved. Rather, to help fight Zika, Congress has urged the administration to divert funds already committed to other important public health programs such as Ebola response and other preparedness efforts.

In a letter to House leaders last week, APHA, other health and medical groups, and industry organizations called for new funding rather than repurpose money from other high priority programs at CDC and other federal agencies that ensure health security and public health preparedness.

“Our nation has a brief window of opportunity to slow the spread of the Zika virus and avert a wave of preventable birth defects,” the organizations wrote.

“As the summer months approach and we enter mosquito season, our nation can expect to be exposed to mosquitos that can spread this virus. Over 4 million babies are born in our nation each year, and many of their mothers could be at risk for contracting Zika during pregnancy.”

Emergency funding would strengthen the capacity of state and local health departments to prepare for and respond to this threat; expand outreach, education, screening and treatment services; enhance laboratory and surveillance capacity, and reduce opportunities for disease transmission. Supplemental funding would also support U.S. efforts to contain Zika in affected countries and support Zika response.

“We applaud CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal agencies for their work to identify, track and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Benjamin. “But they need sufficient resources to mount a truly effective response.

Take action with APHA and tell Congress to adequately fund federal public health programs. Learn more about how protect your family from Zika virus from APHA’s Get Ready campaign.