Click to tell Tell Congress to fund Zika prevention and research.

Click to tell Tell Congress to fund Zika prevention and research.

Congress is back in Washington today, and it returns to an urgent need to act on the Zika virus infection.

More urgent than ever, in fact.

Nearly 17,000 cases of Zika have been reported in U.S. states and territories as of Aug. 31 — more than four times as many as had been reported when Congress left for its seven-week recess in July. Additionally, the first non-travel related cases of Zika were confirmed by the Florida Department of Health during the congressional break.

Zika, which spreads most often through mosquito bites, can cause microcephaly and other major fetal birth defects, and is linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome. The dangers and effects of Zika have grown especially among pregnant women. To date, nearly 1,600 pregnant women have been infected, and at least 17 U.S. babies were born with birth defects as a result of Zika.

“More than six months ago, President Obama submitted an emergency request to Congress for critical funding to help combat the spread of the Zika virus,” said APHA Associate Executive Director Susan Polan, PhD, in an action alert to APHA members. “Congress has so far failed to develop bipartisan emergency funding legislation that can pass both the House and Senate and secure the president’s signature.

“Now is the time to encourage your members of Congress to immediately pass legislation that adequately addresses the Zika outbreak without cutting funding for other important public health priorities.”

Last week in a Washington Post op-ed, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci shed light on the ramifications of federal Zika funding shortfalls, including more than $670 million that have been directed away from other pressing public health priorities. Those dollars will run out by Sept. 30 and Zika response will grind to a halt without additional funding, they said.

“This ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ approach to an emerging public health threat is detrimental to both the Zika response and to the important non-Zika activities being tapped,” Frieden and Fauci added.

Tell your members of Congress to approve the highest possible level of emergency funding to combat Zika without any controversial policy riders.  And visit APHA’s Zika page for the latest news, science, advocacy messages, tips to avoid infection and more.

Updated to reflect Zika’s association with Guillain-Barré syndrome.