Kathy Castor to House Republicans: Half measures won’t prevent Zika from becoming a full-blown challenge

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With Florida leading the country in the number of reported Zika virus cases, today, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor criticized the Republican leadership in Congress for not only delaying support to fight the spread of the virus that causes severe birth defects, but also for falling short of the needed funding for CDC and NIH prevention and treatments.

“My neighbors and businesses along the Gulf Coast are very frustrated at the Republican-led Congress for their inaction on the Zika virus,” said Castor, who serves on the House Budget Committee as well as the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. “It was February when President Obama said we have a public health emergency and the second day of March when my committee had a hearing. Those many months ago I joined the President in calling on Congress for expedient action in appropriating funds to prevent birth defects, develop vaccines and develop diagnostic testing – we’re now in mid-May!”

In addition, on Monday, House Republicans proposed legislation that would provide not even a third of the $1.9 million the CDC and NIH say they need for research and to assist local communities with combatting Zika.

“GOP obstruction could prove dire for our country and especially our state. It is entirely irresponsible for the GOP to propose half-measures and take their time doing it,” Castor said. “Meanwhile, the number of cases in Florida continues to increase and more of my neighbors are at risk.”

Castor also pointed to how inaction in addressing the Zika virus threatens our economy, especially in Florida where the economy is largely based on tourism.

“If this Republican-led Congress continues to ignore this public health threat, I’m very afraid and many across the business community are afraid for the disaster this could mean for our economy, jobs and Florida’s tourism-based economy.”

Castor was recently joined by local public health experts, Hillsborough County Mosquito Control and Hillsborough County Healthy Start to rally the community to prepare and fight the Zika virus, explaining the everyday actions that neighbors can take to avoid the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus. However, local experts cannot develop the needed diagnostic tests, vaccines and international prevention efforts. That is the responsibility of the U.S. Congress that is derelict in their duty to protect our country from a public health emergency.

“Florida has the highest rate of returned travelers and potentially is the highest risk for any Zika spread due to climate alone,” said Dr. Jaime Morano, University of South Florida Colleges of Medicine and Public Health, Infectious Diseases and International Medicine. “This is why public health funding for mosquito control and education is so crucial.”

More than 100 of the 500-plus travel-related cases of Zika reported nationwide are in Florida.