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Florida lawmakers urge action to stop the spread of Zika

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Florida lawmakers continue to push for more federal assistance to fight the spread of Zika.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday requested the Centers for Disease Control send an additional 1,300 Zika antibody tests to Florida. The additional tests would allow more Floridians, including pregnant women and new mothers, to see if they have had Zika.

There are 134 cases of travel related Zika in Florida. According to the Department of Health, there are also 38 cases that involve pregnant women, regardless of symptoms.

“Since we had our first travel-related Zika case in Florida earlier this year, our state is doing everything we can to ensure we are prepared for the possible spread of the Zika virus,” said Scott in a statement Thursday.

Scott said he made the request for additional kits during a call with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and CDC Director Tom Frieden. He said he also inquired about several unfulfilled requests to the federal government including providing “5,000 Zika preparation kits to the Florida Department of Health and fulfilling the requests made by nearly 30 counties, cities and mosquito control districts in Florida.”

The Naples Republican also said he met with officials in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties to discuss their Zika efforts. Miami-Dade County leads the state with the number of Zika cases.

“This is a national issue and I look forward to the federal government fulfilling our requests,” he said.

Scott’s push for aid comes as Florida’s senators continue their calls for funding to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio sent the House and Senate budget negotiators to fully fund the fight against Zika.

“My home state of Florida, along with Puerto Rico, are expected to be the hardest hit by detrimental impacts of the Zika virus, and it is imperative that Floridians, Puerto Ricans and all Americans are protected by all available resources and courses of action,” the Miami Republican said in his letter. ‎ “With the summer mosquito season here, time is of the essence.”

Rubio said $1.9 billion funding request — a request made by the Obama administration, but one that received bipartisan support, including from Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson — was calculated by federal public health experts as the appropriate amount to “successfully protect the public health of our country against the imposing threat of Zika.”

Rubio and Nelson proposed a measure that would have fully funded President Barack Obama’s request, but it failed to get the support it needed in the Senate.

Nelson is also seeking more money; on Thursday, he filed legislation with Sens. Angus King, a Maine Independent, and Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, that would authorize an additional $130 million a year in grant funding to local mosquito-control boards working to eliminate the type of mosquito that spreads the disease. The bill also authorizes additional funding to public health laboratories to better test for the virus.

“Until we find a cure, the best way to curb the spread of this virus is to eliminate the insects known to carry it,” said Nelson in a statement “As we head into these warmer summer months, Florida’s mosquito population is going to rise, and we need to make sure local mosquito-control units have the resources they need to protect their communities.”

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