Money for wars, not for Zika epidemic, says United States Congress

This January 2016 video from the USA is called Should You Be Worried About The Zika Virus?

By Kate Randall in the USA:

A pittance for Zika, $600 billion for the Pentagon

20 May 2016

As the Zika virus threatens a worldwide epidemic, and large areas of the United States are poised to be hit, the US Congress has yet to pass a bill authorizing the large sums needed to fight the virus and the diseases caused by it.

As the virus continues to spread, however, the US House voted on Wednesday to approve a $602 billion defense policy bill for the fiscal year beginning October to fund the US military. The bill must be reconciled with a version the Senate is expected to consider by the end of May.

Several months ago, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion to combat Zika, a figure far below what is needed. The House on Wednesday passed a bill to provide $622 million (about one one-thousandth of the military budget) to control Zika, and requires that the funds be fully offset by cuts to other spending, particularly the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate voted on Thursday to pass its $1.1 billion version and proposed to add the cost to the deficit. President Obama has pledged to veto the House bill and has yet to comment on the Senate version.

All of these funding proposals are woefully inadequate to fight the threat of Zika in the US. They express the opposition of the entire political establishment to any serious steps against a virus that overwhelmingly affects the poor and vulnerable. The priority of the ruling class and its political representatives is not the protection and wellbeing of the vast majority of Americans, but funding the gigantic US military apparatus that is deployed throughout the world to prop up dictatorships and to maim and kill civilians.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) confirmed in March that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, a devastating defect in which infants are born with smaller than normal heads as their brains fail to properly develop. Zika is also thought to cause Guillain–Barré syndrome and other autoimmune conditions that are potentially fatal.

Contraction of Zika is more common in areas that lack sanitation and garbage collection, and have pools of standing water where the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito species that carry the virus can breed. Homes without window screens and bed netting are also at risk. The virus can also be sexually transmitted.

The Pan American Health Organization reported the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil in 2015. About one million cases of Zika infection are now reported in Brazil, which is in the midst of a devastating economic crisis. The number of babies suspected and confirmed to have Zika-induced microcephaly is in the area of 5,000. The epicenter of the Zika crisis is in the country’s Northeast, where 35 million people have no running water and over 100 million lack access to sewage systems.

The CDC has reported mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Puerto Rico is reporting about 100 confirmed cases per week, and 945 infections since the island’s outbreak began last year, 65 of them pregnant women. Last Friday, the US territory’s health department reported the first fetus to develop microcephaly, which was not carried to term.

Puerto Rico defaulted on $347 million of its debt payments on May 2. Last year, the government cut $250 million in appropriations for public health, resulting in the closure of hospitals and health care centers and job losses for thousands of public employees. The default will further curb efforts to fight the spread of Zika.

The virus will undoubtedly move north, beginning with the US South. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) looked at 50 US cities where the Aedes and related mosquito species are known to exist. NCAR assessed cities for Zika risk due to temperature, proximity to airports and overall socioeconomic conditions.

NCAR created a map showing potential areas for significant breeding of the Aedes mosquitos throughout the country. Five Florida cities have been identified as high-risk, and cities in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama also have high-risk cities. Many of these areas have low access to air conditioning and windows with effective screens and greater difficulty accessing clean water.

Moderate risk for Zika has been identified in cities as far north as New York City, and as far west as Oklahoma City.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told ABC News that that there is a “narrow window of opportunity” to tackle the growing Zika threat. “This is an unprecedented problem,” he warned. “We’ve never had a situation before where a single mosquito bite could lead to a devastating fetal malformation.”

Politicians in Washington, however, are unmoved by the potential social catastrophe. The Obama administration’s efforts related to Zika include incentives for the drug companies, offering them expedited approval of new drugs in return for ramping up their research to develop a vaccine to protect against the virus. The pharmaceuticals have previously balked at doing such research, as it is not likely to bring in big profits.

The Zika virus and its horrifying effects, particularly on infants, are born of poverty and social inequality. They can be fought only on the basis of an internationally coordinated campaign, providing the resources to not only rapidly develop and distribute vaccines to fight it, but to eradicate the conditions of poverty and oppression that cause them to spread.

There are more than enough resources to be used to combat Zika and other modern-day plagues, but their utilization is blocked by the capitalist system, which subordinates all such concerns to the profits of a tiny financial oligarchy and its agenda of war abroad and social counterrevolution at home.

‘WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING ZIKA’ A look at Congress’s inability to properly fund a Zika response as the U.S. local transmission threat grows with the climbing temperatures. [Michael McAuliff, HuffPost]

CONGRESS FAILS TO FUND ZIKA FIGHT Congress split town for a two-week recess despite never coming to an agreement on a spending package to help prepare for a domestic Zika virus outbreak this summer. No one in the U.S. has contracted the tropical illness, which can cause serious birth defects when pregnant women become ill, but the coming warm weather and mosquito season have the health care community and senior government officials like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden seriously concerned. Hundreds of Americans have returned home carrying Zika and more than 900 people have become infected in Puerto Rico. [WaPo]

Zika strain that causes microcephaly found in Africa for the first time, WHO confirms. Expert warns an outbreak of the Asian Zika virus in Africa could be ‘a bigger disaster than in South America’: here.

On May 31, a baby girl in New Jersey became the first infant with Zika virus related microcephaly born in the continental United States. The number of confirmed Zika cases continues to rise, threatening a series of outbreaks in the US during the summer months. Zika has the potential to spread far beyond its Brazilian epicenter and reach epidemic proportions in densely populated areas across the globe: here.

First cases of mosquito-contracted Zika on US mainland reported in Florida: here.

Mosquito moms can pass Zika to offspring: here.

CDC ISSUES TRAVEL WARNING FOR ZIKA IN MIAMI NEIGHBORHOOD Women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy are urged not to travel to a Miami neighborhood battling an outbreak. And since Congress never approved funding, the money to fund research for a Zika vaccine runs out this month. [Reuters]

LOCALLY-TRANSMITTED ZIKA SPREADS PAST MIAMI Officials found a case in Pinellas County, Florida, which is 265 miles away from Miami. And take a look at the infant brain scans of those infected with Zika, which show the catastrophic damage of the virus. [Reuters]

14 thoughts on “Money for wars, not for Zika epidemic, says United States Congress

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  6. Yesterday, campaigning for the Senate, I held a town hall meeting in Miami on the Zika virus. In rare instances, the Zika virus can kill you. But the greatest threat is that when a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, and carries the fetus to term, the child often is born with a tiny, deformed brain (known as “microcephaly”). The victims can do little beyond breathing, and they are completely dependent and even unconscious for their whole lives.

    In the past 10 days, there have been 15 “endemic” cases of Zika infection identified in Miami. (These are infections by local mosquitoes, not cases where the victim traveled to some infected area and returned to Miami.) At my town hall meeting, I explained that I have called for Congress to reconvene to pass legislation to stop the Zika virus, through development of a vaccine, mosquito control, etc. But since being a Member of Congress means more than standing on a soap box, I also took the opportunity to inform people in Miami what they could do to protect themselves. Some of these things are obvious, like bug spray. Some are not, like making sure that you don’t leave any flower pots out in the rain, where water can collect and mosquitoes can lay eggs. In fact, we’re spending a good deal of time (and money) in this campaign, educating the public and mobilizing support to fight the Zika threat.

    Imagine that: an elected official, running for office, trying to do something useful. If that’s what you’d like to see, then please contribute $3 or more to help our one-of-a-kind Senate campaign succeed >>

    Which brings us to Marco Rubio. On the same day that I was performing my public service, Marco Rubio announced that under no circumstances should Zika-infected fetuses be aborted.

    I try very hard not to feign indignation, because I see so many others in political life who do that incessantly. However, I’m not feigning it here — Marco Rubio’s position genuinely disgusts me. He not only is relegating pregnant women to the status of baby-making machines, but then also chaining them to the resulting microcephalic victims for the rest of their lives – or making those victims wards of the state for 80 years or so.

    That’s monstrous.

    That is gross interference in the private life and decisions of a woman, all for the sake of some hackneyed bromide like “choose life.” I can’t even conceive of a moral code worthy of the term “moral” that would force that wretched existence onto mothers, would-be and wouldn’t-be mothers alike.

    Which makes it that much more important that we defeat Marco Rubio, and replace him in the U.S. Senate. Donate here, now, and make that happen >>


    Rep. Alan Grayson


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  10. Dear Friend,
    Stop Playing Politics with the Zika Crisis

    It is happening.

    The dangerous Zika epidemic is now rapidly spreading in the United States. There have already been more than 510 cases of Zika in pregnant people living in the United States and at least 15 children have been born with Zika-related neurological damage.1, 2, 3 Health officials are now reporting that Zika will likely spread to other Gulf Coast states like Texas and Louisiana.4

    In February, the White House and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) asked Congress to fund a $1.9 billion Zika response plan. But instead of taking action and providing the funding, the extreme right-wing Republican leadership in Congress continues to play politics with the health of women and children.

    When Congress comes back from recess on September 6, McConnell and Ryan need to get the message loud and clear that it’s time to take Zika seriously.

    Tell Republican congressional leaders: Stop playing games with the health of women and children, and do what’s required to fight the Zika virus. Click here to sign the petition.

    You’d think that Republicans, who claim to stand for “family values,” would want to move quickly to stop this outbreak in its track. But Republicans are clearly more interested in scoring political points with their base. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed a $1.1 billion dollar package, which not only doubled-down on his party’s anti-woman agenda by including contraception restrictions and blocking Planned Parenthood funding, but also promoted Republican efforts to ease pesticide restrictions and undermine clean water rules.5 Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s Zika response was even weaker, with only $622 million allocated to fight the virus.

    By failing to pass real legislation to address this crisis, congressional Republicans are opening a new front in their war on women. They have already been waging a relentless campaign to deny women access to reproductive health care across the country — from trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive mandate, to undermining sex education, to restricting abortion access. In the face of Zika, it’s essential that all women have access to up-to-date information, affordable birth control, and abortions, but after years of anti-woman attacks at the state and national level, those services are almost impossible to access, especially for many women of color, women in rural areas, and women living in poverty. It’s horrifying to imagine that the states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. are going to be the ones who first have to grapple with the Zika virus.6

    Tell Republican congressional leaders: Stop playing games with the health of women and children, and do what’s required to fight the Zika virus. Click here to sign the petition.

    Beyond the damage already done by their anti-woman policies, Republicans are actively promoting a Zika response that restricts access to contraception and abortion. And their inaction is leaving low-income women to fend for themselves. Because of Zika’s presence in Miami Beach, health officials are advising pregnant women to avoid that tourist area, and to consider staying out of Miami-Dade County completely. While that may be an option for pregnant tourists, or residents of Miami-Dade who have the financial privilege to move for the duration of their pregnancies, it’s a cruel warning for the majority of women who live or work in Miami-Dade. Republicans’ refusal to do what’s necessary to stand up for the women, children and families who will be impacted by Zika is craven, dangerous and inappropriate. It’s time for them to act.

    Tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: Stop playing games with the health of women and children. Do what’s required to fight the Zika virus. Click the link below to sign the petition:

    Thanks for taking action today,

    Heidi Hess, Senior Campaign Manager
    CREDO Action from Working Assets

    Add your name:
    Sign the petition ►


    Christine Grimaldi, “Zika Response ‘Sits Squarely With Congress’ After Administration’s Last-Ditch Effort,” Rewire, August 12, 2016.
    “Outcomes of Pregnancies with Laboratory Evidence of Possible Zika Virus Infection in the United States, 2016,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    Amrith Ramkumar, “Zika May Cause Brain Damage in Adults, Too,” August 19, 2016.
    David Greene, “Health Official Warns Zika Could Spread Across U.S. Gulf Coast,” NPR, August 22, 2016.
    David Herszenhorn, “Zika Bill Is Blocked by Senate Democrats Upset Over Provisions,” June 28, 2016.
    Alex Thompson, “Zika is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the US, August 9, 2016.


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