With this being the last day of June, we are at the mid-point of calendar-year 2016. I thought for sure in this update I’d be telling you that the U.S. Congress approved funding to fight the Zika virus. Regrettably, as it is often with our elected representatives, taking measures to combat the threat of the virus in the United States and other countries through a number of selective measures, including research, has taken a back seat to partisan politics and bickering.
Back in February, President Obama asked Congress to provide $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight this mosquito-borne illness that can cause devastating birth defects. In May, the House passed a bill that would provide $622 million in funding, drawing a veto threat from the White House, which called it woefully inadequate. The Senate also passed legislation in May to provide $1.1 billion in funding.
The bill that came to the Senate floor on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, was an attempt by House and Senate negotiators to try to find a compromise between the two previous bills. However, Senate Democrats opposed this bill because it includes $750 million in budget cuts to other health care programs: $543 million in unused funds from the implementation of Obamacare, $107 million from leftover funds used to fight Ebola, and $100 million in administrative funds from the Health and Human Services Department.
It remains to be seen if cooler heads will prevail in the next two weeks before congressional members depart Washington, DC for a seven-week vacation. Neither side wants to be seen as not having acted to address this public health threat.
One of the questions that continues be asked since February 1, 2016 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is whether or not we should fear an economic crisis. An answer is provided by Adam Collins of Capital Economics: “Although Zika “is clearly a public health issue and there is still a large degree of economic uncertainty, as things stand, the economic impact is likely to be small, [and] we don’t expect it to be a major drag on the region’s economic growth this year.” [Ref 1]
Why is that? “Unlike the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014—2015 and SARS in southern China in 2004—2005, both of which substantially suppressed economic activity, Zika can’t be passed easily from person to person. “The fear of being infected with Zika is very unlikely to prevent people from going to work or shopping. As such, it is highly unlikely to disrupt consumption, investment or trade flows,” says Collins.
He goes on to say, “Tourism will be harder hit estimating that the industry, including its ripple effects throughout the economy, makes up 10% of GDP in Latin America and 9% in Brazil. But SARS showed that international tourism rebounds fast once an outbreak is contained. If it’s not fast enough to prevent a toll on attendance at the Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August, then Brazil’s economic boost from the games could be smaller than anticipated.” But the country, economists say, has bigger problems. The Olympics were never going to pull it out of negative growth, Zika or not. [Ref 1]
In other news, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides the following stats and updates for the virus from January 1, 2015 to June 29, 2016:
- Locally acquired mosquito-borne cases reported: 0
- Travel-associated cases reported: 934
- Laboratory acquired cases reported: 1
- Total: 935
- Sexually transmitted: 13
- Guillain-Barré syndrome: 4
- Locally acquired cases reported: 2,020
- Travel-associated cases reported: 6
- Total: 2,026*
- Guillain-Barré syndrome: 10
* Sexually transmitted cases are not reported for areas with local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus because it is not possible to determine whether infection occurred due to mosquito-borne or sexual transmission.
Also, ABC News 10 in Pembroke Park, FL reported on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, confirmed the first child to be born in Florida with Zika-related microcephaly. The birth mother is a Haitian national who came to Florida to give birth. She was infected with the Zika virus in Haiti. Previously, there have been two other Zika-related microcephaly births in the United States, one in Hawaii and one in New Jersey, according to a Department of Health (DOH) representative. [Ref 2]
My next Zika virus update will take a look at some new research and technologies that continue to emerge to combat this disease. Until then, if you are interesting in finding out how you can combat mosquitoes in- and outside of your homes, visit the CDC web page [Ref 3].
- Zika A Public Health, Not An Economic Crisis, by Jill Goldsmith for Global Finance, March 11, 2016, https://www.gfmag.com/magazine/march-2016/zika-public-health-not-economic-crisis
- First baby with Zika-related microcephaly born in Florida: Mother came to Florida from Haiti to deliver child, health officials say, by Amanda Batchelor, Senior Digitial Editor and Glenna Milberg, Reporter, for WPLG, June 28, 2016, http://www.local10.com/health/first-baby-with-zika-related-microcephaly-born-in-florida
- Controlling Mosquitoes at Home, Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/controlling-mosquitoes-at-home.html