The Zika Virus: Why you won’t see any members of Congress vacationing in Florida

The mosquito is often jokingly called, Florida’s state bird, but right now there is nothing funny about mosquitoes and their impact on our citizens. Mosquitoes throughout Florida are being blamed for the transmission of the Zika virus. The Zika virus is normally transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, but it can also be spread by having sex with an infected person and can be transmitted from mother to unborn child. There is no vaccine and there is no specific treatment. In unborn children, the Zika virus can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other brain defects. Researchers are also considering a connection between Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS and the Zika virus).

As of August 16. 2016 there are 542 cases of the Zika virus in Florida. Most cases are travel-related, but over 30 are locally transmitted. While the bulk of the cases are in South Florida, particularly the Miami area, there are travel-related cases in Marion, Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough, Polk and other counties throughout Florida.

This a very serious issue and unfortunately, it is being used as a political football. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, is asking for federal dollars to help the state pay for prevention, which includes mosquito control and education. That is a good first step, but keep in mind that during his first year in office he was responsible for cutting the state-funded mosquito control budget in half and other cuts forced the closing of one of the two mosquito research labs in Florida.

Gov. Scott contacted the Obama administration and requested help, which he was promised and still has not received. Instead of Congress approving a clean bill that would insure funding to fight the Zika virus, they added things like a $540m cut in Obamacare. So the bill just sits there while Congress is on vacation and more people are infected and the Zika virus continues to spread.

Back to Scott. As you probably know, Gov. Scott rejected the Medicaid expansion that was offered to states that accepted Obamacare and that decision along with cuts that were made affecting Florida’s health services have impacted the state’s ability to respond to the crisis. Clinics are understaffed and overwhelmed.

This is not how government is supposed to work. We should be able to respond rapidly to a health crisis that could be devastating to the people of our nation, health care services should accessible and readily available to diagnose and treat infected individuals and prevention and control services must be funded and implemented as fast as possible. This is not a failure of just Democrats, just Republicans, the Congress or Governor Scott alone. They all own this failure.

With recent catastrophic flooding in Louisiana the situation has become even more dire. We cannot wait any longer.

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