Congress passes $1.1B in Zika funds after months of debate

After seven months of political wrangling, both of America's federal legislative bodies passed a measure that will provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to push back against the spread of Zika in the United States, according to NPR.

The Zika funds were passed under the umbrella of a larger agreement that will fund the government past the end of the fiscal year on Friday when the current budget expires and Congress adjourns.

According to NPR, the Zika funds passed in Congress will provide $394 million for mosquito control efforts, $397 million to assist in the development of a vaccine against the virus and to improve Zika testing and $66 million to be dispersed to Puerto Rico to ease the healthcare burden Zika has inflicted upon the island territory. As of Sept. 21, there have been more than 19,000 cases of Zika reported in Puerto Rico, according to the CDC.

The passage of funds for Zika has garnered support from leaders in the medical community.

"It has been clear over the past several months that the U.S. has needed additional resources to combat the Zika virus," Andrew W. Gurman, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. "The AMA is pleased that Congress has taken action to provide the resources necessary to help contain the virus and limit any further impact on Americans. With the threat of the virus continuing to loom, this funding will help protect more people — particularly pregnant women and their children — from the virus' lasting negative health effects."

The prolonged political tussle over Zika funds began in February when President Obama called for nearly $2 billion in funding to prepare the nation for the arrival of the Zika virus — a neurologically debilitating, mosquito-borne disease linked to birth defects, most notably microcephaly.

Since the request, Republicans presented bills with funds lower than the White House's request that proposed pulling money from other organizations like Planned Parenthood, which drew the ire of Democrats.

On Tuesday, Democrats in the Senate shot down a bill that would have provided funding for Zika along with relief funds for the people of Louisiana who are still recovering from massive flooding in August. The bill was voted down by Democrats because the measure included no money for those affected by the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich. The new bill will provide such funding, according to CNN.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
CDC isn't using the most accurate Zika test available, whistle-blower says 
Sanofi receives $43.2M to accelerate Zika vaccine development 
4 suspected cases of Zika-related microcephaly in Thailand

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