'It's too late. Mosquito season is here': Houston health official expresses ire over stalled Zika funds

Listen
Text
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large

As Congress enters its final week before recessing until September, little hope remains among health officials that a bipartisan bill for emergency Zika funds will pass.

Umair Shah, MD, executive director of the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services Department in Houston, serves a city, like many on the Gulf Coast, at-risk for local Zika transmission.

Dr. Shah told NBC News, "I am concerned that the goose is cooked. This funding is done. It's not coming to us."

The battle over Zika funds has been a lush source of political theatre since February when President Barack Obama requested nearly $2 billion be allocated to the cause. The most recent legislation was passed by House Republicans after a lengthy sit-in conducted by Democrats inspired by the failure to pass gun control legislation. That bill would have allocated $1.1 billion to the fight against Zika, of which $750 million would have been diverted from existing programs including Planned Parenthood. President Obama threatened to veto the bill, and it has since stalled in the Senate.

Sign up for our FREE E-Weekly for more coverage like this sent to your inbox!

Even if a bipartisan measure for Zika funds passed tomorrow, the distribution of the money to federal agencies would likely take weeks and months, Dr. Shah told NBC News.

"It has to go through the Health and Human Services Department and then through the CDC — do you think this is going to happen in a couple of minutes? It's too late. Mosquito season is here," said Dr. Shah.

The virus poses the greatest threat to newborn children, as it can incite several birth defects including microcephaly after infecting the pregnant mother.

On Friday, health officials confirmed the first Zika-related death in the continental U.S.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
320 pregnant women in US infected with Zika  
CDC, EPA urge Puerto Rico to start aerial spraying to fight Zika mosquitoes  
Sanofi, U.S. Army partner to speed up Zika vaccine development 

Copyright © 2021 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.

 

Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars