Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Urges Swift Action by New Zika Panel

May 27, 2016
Press Release
Joint Conference Committee Needs To “Act Immediately to Save Lives”

CDC Director Warns: “We’re Losing Time with Zika” 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today called on the newly appointed members of a House conference committee to follow the advice of the nation’s top health experts and approve significant funding to confront the deadly Zika virus.

House leaders named 13 members to a bipartisan joint committee that will reconcile different funding levels approved by the House and Senate.

At the same time the appointments were announced the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, issued a stark warning: “We lost time fighting Ebola because we couldn’t immediately respond rapidly. I fear that we’re losing time with Zika.”

“Now that the new committee has been appointed, I want to make sure that each member understands the threat to Florida and the rest of the nation,” Buchanan said. “America’s top health experts have been clear on the need for swift action and substantial funding to confront the Zika virus.”

Frieden said the money is urgently needed to expand the agency’s capacity to test for Zika, create mosquito control strategies and accelerate the development of a vaccine. 

“The committee’s priority should be to swiftly approve an appropriate level of funding,” Buchanan said. “Every second counts if we want to protect the public from the devastating impact of this virus.”

Last week the CDC said they are monitoring 279 pregnant women with confirmed or suspected Zika virus infections in the United States and its territories. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently noted that it can cost anywhere between $1 million and $10 million to treat a baby born with microcephaly, a catastrophic neurological birth defect linked with Zika in which the brain doesn't develop properly.

Buchanan’s call for leaders to move swiftly comes several days after Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next “month or so.”

The Department of Defense is also taking measures to combat the virus on U.S. military installations and protect troops and their families. According to a Pentagon memo written in March, the mosquito species capable of carrying the Zika virus is likely found on 190 military installations in 27 states and three territories, as reported by Stars and Stripes.

Florida had 158 reported cases of the Zika virus as of yesterday, according to the Florida Department of Health. Across the U.S. there are 591 travel-related cases of Zika, according to the CDC.

Buchanan was the first Republican in the U.S. House to support the Obama administration’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus. The CDC has told Buchanan the money is essential to protect people in Florida and elsewhere as the summer months approach and mosquitoes flourish.