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Debate Grows Around House GOP's Zika-Funding Plan

JUN 27, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
On Thursday, June 23, 2016, House Republicans approved a bill which included a $1.1 billion fund to combat Zika. But there’s one big drawback, according to Democrats.
 
Controversy over Zika funds has been ongoing since February when the Obama Administration proposed a Zika plan that would grant $1.9 billion in funds to fight active viral transmission within the continental United States. Efforts to pass the bill were stalled for months since many believed that the virus is only harmful to a small portion of the population, and therefore not a priority. The recently approved Republican plan would repurpose Ebola funds as well as funds from the Obamacare program; the bill would grant approximately $400 million in new funds.
 
Although the House’s proposed Zika bill is not far from that approved by the Senate in mid-May, the limitations of the bill are what has Democrats concerned. According to the details of the bill, Zika funding will go towards mosquito-control efforts, diagnostics, and vaccine development. Funding would be provided to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not on the list— funding to aid family-planning organizations, despite the fact that the greatest threat posed by the virus is to the fetuses of infected pregnant women.
 
Senate Democrats are refusing to support the bill that would grant $1.1 billion to combat Zika. Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader from Nevada, said in a statement, “A narrowly partisan proposal that cuts off women's access to birth control, shortchanges veterans and rescinds Obamacare funds to cover the cost is not a serious response to the threat from the Zika virus.”
 
The Zika virus has been confirmed by the CDC and the World Health Organization, to cause several neurological complications in developing fetuses of infected pregnant women, including microcephaly and blindness. Zika infection has also been said to contribute to stillbirths and miscarriages. Pregnant women are not only at risk of contracting the virus from the bite of an infected mosquito; it has also been confirmed that men can transmit a Zika infection to their partners through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
 
Until now, concerns about the Zika virus have mostly surrounded pregnant women, but a new case in Brazil has brought to light additional concerns for adults.
 
Previously, Zika infection in adults was believed to result in mild symptoms, with 80% of patients being asymptomatic, and the remaining 20% presenting with symptoms such as rash, fever, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. However, in a recent case in Brazil, a 40-year-old male patient was diagnosed with what doctors believe to be Zika-related uveitis.  
 


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