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GOP Zika Funding Bill Fails in Re-vote as New Epidemiological Data Emerge

JUL 14, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Congress failed to reach a decision on Zika funding today as a new study reveals that the epidemic is expected to last well into 2019.
It’s been several months since President Obama first insisted that Congress take action against the impending Zika threat. In early February, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion in federal funds to aid in combating active Zika transmission in the United States. The Senate approved a bill that would grant $1.1 billion in Zika funds; however, the bill did not go through the House without a few provisions. The proposed changes included reallocating funding from the Obamacare and Ebola programs and restricting funding to family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Democrats voted down the bill in late June, due to these provisions because they felt that providing family planning organizations with funding is imperative, considering that the populations they cater to are at most risk of developing complications associated with a Zika infection.  
According to Time, today’s congressional session saw much debate over the bill. In response to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s allegations stating that Democrats are not considering the serious implications of the virus when they vote against the bill, Senate Democrat Harry Reid stated that the majority of the threat of the virus is posed to pregnant women and their fetuses, whom, according to the proposed changes, would not benefit from the passing of this bill.
Congress’ failure to come to a decision on funding comes on the heels of recently revealed information on just how long we could be battling the virus.
According to research recently published in Science, the current Zika epidemic is projected to last for three years “with seasonal oscillations in incidence caused by variation in mosquito populations and transmissibility.” After three years, the authors state that herd immunity should then delay another epidemic for approximately 10 years until “further large epidemics are possible.” The effects of climate change have the ability to impact the trajectory of the current epidemic substantially, and so further studies are needed.
Of note is the fact that the herd immunity is “unlikely to be sufficient to prevent ongoing and substantial risk to pregnant women in future Zika epidemics.” If this proves to be true, a vaccine for the virus remains paramount.

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