Respected perspective on the need for a US public health emergency fund.
Zika is Coming, but We are Far from Ready
By Ronald A. Klain, White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015
The Washington Post
The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response.
Of all the things that Congress could be truculent about, fighting an epidemic is the worst imaginable. Zika is not “coming” to the United States: It is already here. Hundreds of people who caught the disease abroad are in the country; more than 250 cases of pregnant women in the United States and its territories with Zika have been logged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Soon, as summer arrives, the Aedes aegypti mosquito will become active in Southern states, and the disease will spread there. Cases of sexual transmission will take place as well. It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly — it is a question of when and how many. For years to come, these children will be a visible, human reminder of the cost of absurd wrangling in Washington, of preventable suffering, of a failure of our political system to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose.
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