Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Hosts Forum on Zika

Jun 13, 2016
Press Release
Health Experts, Centers for Disease Control Talk Safety, Preparedness

Florida Epicenter of Deadly Disease

SARASOTA — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today hosted a meeting of national and local health experts in Sarasota to discuss efforts to combat the Zika virus.

Buchanan said he arranged the public forum to give residents of the Suncoast guidance on ways to reduce their exposure as the summer months approach. The number of Florida cases is over 170, the most in the nation.

“I want to make sure that Floridians are protected and fully equipped to confront Zika,” Buchanan said. “The information and guidance we heard today by local and federal health experts is invaluable to safeguarding lives.

Buchanan (standing) speaks with health experts about the Zika virus in Florida.

One of the panelists was Rear Admiral Stephen Redd, the director of the Office for Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Redd noted the CDC is learning a lot about the disease every day.

“We really don't know what the future is going to hold for this virus,” Redd said. “We have travel-related cases. We are working hard to be prepared to respond in the event of local transmission.” 

Buchanan and Rear Admiral Stephen Redd talk about reducing public risk.

Buchanan was the first Republican in the U.S. House to support President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus. “Every day brings more bad news about the potential impact of the mosquito-borne virus,” he said, adding that Congress should make it a top priority to fund anti-Zika efforts.

Suncoast public health experts listen to Buchanan and Rear Admiral Stephen Redd.

Public health experts that spoke at the panel expressed their thanks to Congressman Buchanan for his efforts to fight Zika.

Jennifer Bencie, administrator for the Manatee County Health Department, praised Buchanan for his work in pushing congressional leaders to get the much-needed full emergency funding to help conduct exercises and be prepared.

Mark Latham, district director of Manatee County Mosquito Control, urged Floridians to clean their backyards. He also voiced his concern about the lack of public awareness in confronting the virus.

“Public awareness and public education doesn't seem to be working,” Latham said. “I don't know what else we can do to increase public awareness. We can react when we are informed – we can react very quickly.”

Sarasota County Health Department Administrator Chuck Henry said, “Prevention and preparation efforts related to the Zika virus threat are a top public health priority across Florida. We appreciate Congressman Buchanan's efforts to secure federal resources to assist us with that effort.” 

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee hosted the event.

Panelists included:

  • Rear Admiral Stephen Redd, MD, Director of the CDC’s Office for Public Health Preparedness and Response.
  • Jennifer Bencie, Manatee County Health Department Administrator.
  • Chuck Henry, Sarasota County Health Department Administrator.
  • Don Hermey, Manatee County Emergency Management Chief.
  • Mark Latham, Manatee County Mosquito Control District Director.
  • Matt Smith, Sarasota County Mosquito Control District Director.
  • Dr. Washington Hill, MD, Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.